Let’s stay course in HIV/AIDS fight

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

AS Le­sotho joins the rest of the world in com­mem­o­rat­ing World Aids Day, His Majesty King Let­sie III is to­day ex­pected to of­fi­cially launch a new HIV test­ing de­vice for in­fants at ‘Man­thabiseng Con­ven­tion Cen­tre in Maseru.

As we re­port else­where in this edi­tion, the new de­vice is a wel­come im­prove­ment on the con­ven­tional test­ing meth­ods as it will pro­vide same-day re­sults and po­ten­tially fa­cil­i­tate the same-day treat­ment thus im­prov­ing the in­fant’s chances of lead­ing a healthy and pro­duc­tive life should the tests come pos­i­tive.

With the less ef­fi­cient con­ven­tional sys­tem, in­fants born of HIV pos­i­tive moth­ers would only be tested af­ter 6 weeks and this can lead to early mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity due to de­lays in di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment of those found to be pos­i­tive.

It is worth cel­e­brat­ing that Le­sotho is among only nine African coun­tries cho­sen for this new test­ing pro­gramme and it is also com­mend­able that His Majesty has once again led from the front by launch­ing the pro­gramme as he has done on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

Hav­ing said that, it is worth point­ing out and this is some­thing we will never tire in stat­ing that for all the lead­er­ship and all the new pro­grammes de­vised every year, the fight against the HIV/AIDS pan­demic can and will never be won with­out that one vi­tal in­gre­di­ent of be­havioural change.

Yes our lead­ers and in­ter­na­tional part­ners are do­ing their best and it is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that every few months we hear of a new ini­tia­tive that has been launched and every time there is a new wave of op­ti­mism.

But as they say, the numbers do not lie. This year we com­mem­o­rate World Aids Day against the back­drop of the un­flat­ter­ing sta­tis­tics of hav­ing in­creased our HIV preva­lence rates to 25 per­cent as well as be­ing sec­ond only to Swazi­land as the coun­try with the high­est HIV preva­lence rates in the world.

It only took us a few years to leapfrog Botswana into that po­si­tion and clearly there­fore, this would mean all the in­ter­ven­tions against HIV/ Aids are not yield­ing the de­sired re­sults thus far.

It is com­mon knowl­edge that HIV/AIDS is an ex­is­ten­tial threat to a na­tion such as ours and with a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion es­pe­cially the young in­fected, it could well prove dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment de­vel­op­men­tal pro­grammes that de­mand a healthy vi­brant and there­fore pro­duc­tive work­force.

Not to men­tion the fact that re­sources will al­ways be di­verted from other de­vel­op­men­tal needs to ef­forts aimed at fight­ing the scourge.

The HIV/AIDS is one of the great­est chal­lenges of our times and while new pro­grammes and mea­sures such as these are needed, there can be no sub­sti­tute for be­havioural change.

We need to de­sist from al­co­hol and drug abuse as well as other ac­tiv­i­ties that fuel risky sex­ual be­hav­iour that can lead to new in­fec­tions.

No mat­ter how lib­eral and per­mis­sive so­ci­ety can be­come, it would ap­pear good old-fash­ioned moral­ity would do us a lot of good. Faith­ful­ness to one part­ner and even ab­sti­nence would greatly as­sist in the fight against the scourge.

If not, the least would be the use of proven meth­ods of pro­tec­tion such as con­doms for sex­ual in­ter­course.

Now, more than ever is the time to adopt be­havioural change as the weapon of choice in the fight against the pan­demic. The in­creas­ing preva­lence of HIV/AIDS sug­gests that we might not have a choice, it is ei­ther we change our be­hav­iour or the con­se­quences would just be too ghastly to con­tem­plate. Much as it may sound like a cliché, we owe it not only to our­selves but fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to do the right thing and change our sex­ual be­hav­iour.

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