HEALTH Minister, Molotsi Monyamane, has called on herbalists claiming to have the cure for HIV/AIDS to stop forthwith, saying they are setting back the progress made in fighting the pandemic.
Dr Monyamane made the remarks at a press conference, in Maseru on Monday, following the flighting of advertisements in the media by herbalists claiming to have found the cure for HIV/AIDS and urging the public to consult them.
According to the minister, who is also a medical doctor, the advertisements were “dangerous” as they urged HIV/AIDS patients to take supplements instead of antiretroviral treatment.
“Some people have stopped taking their antiretroviral treatment after accepting as true claims made on the adverts that supplements from certain doctors are better than antiretroviral treatment,” said Dr Monyamane.
“This has resulted in a marked decrease in the number of people who take antiretroviral treatment, a very saddening and dangerous development considering the long 31-year journey we have come in trying to defeat the diseases.”
He said the health practitioners making such claims were impeding the strategies implemented and progress made for years in fighting the disease.
“As the Ministry of Health, we say the claims made by such doctors have no basis and are wrong. They have to come to an end as soon as possible to protect the public to whose lives we have been entrusted,” Dr Monyamane said.
He added that the ministry had already started taking action against the “doctors” since they had continued to disseminate their claims despite being ordered to stop.
The minister said they were engaging community health workers and chiefs to warn people in the localities about the false advertisements.
“We have also distributed information, education and communication material which stresses the importance of antiretroviral treatment in the survival of HIV/AIDS patients in health centres across the country,” he said.
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Dr Monyamane said in yesteryears, the rate of new infections among Basotho was slowly declining until this year where statistics show an upward swing.
“Although prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS continues, about 72 Basotho get new infections daily,” he said.
“Because HIV has no cure, the Ministry of Health encourages those who are already on antiretroviral treatment to continue to take their medication and follow instructions from health practitioners.
“They should also engage in protected sex with the youth avoiding sex before marriage to curb the further prevalence of the virus.”
He said the ministry had been receiving reports from health practitioners that, for the last three months, some patients had stopped collecting their antiretroviral treatment at health centres.
“It is saddening to hear such news especially considering Lesotho is number two in the world in terms of HIV/AIDS prevalence,” the minister noted.
Lesotho’s HIV-prevalence rate has remained stagnant at 23 percent but leapfrogged Botswana into second position because of the latter’s successes in lowering its prevalence rate from the previous 24.8 percent. Swaziland’s HIV-prevalence is 26 percent.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Medical Association (LMA) also released a statement expressing concern about the continued high HIV/AIDS prevalence in Lesotho.
Read the statement: “The fact that Lesotho ranks in the top three of the worst HIV and AIDS affected countries is a major concern to the Ministry of Health as a custodian of health, the medical fraternity and all professionals and organisations dealing with this dreadful disease.
“The LMA hereby appeals to all Basotho, especially those that are already on antiretroviral treatment to continue to be preserved by scientifically-proven remedies and immune boosters.
“Drug resistance is a serious matter which can do great harm not only to the individual affected but to the nation.”
The LMA also appealed to the public to discuss, with a doctor or qualified health provider, the merits of any product given to them as an alternative to antiretroviral treatment.