Let’s stay course in HIV/AIDS fight
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.