LESOTHO joined the rest of the globe on Tuesday in marking World Aids Day at the Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation in Maseru.
The commemorations were held under the theme “Ending Aids: Towards Sustainable Development”, while the global theme was “Getting to zero: End Aids by 2030”. World Aids Day is marked annually on 1 December to raise awareness about the deadly disease.
Among the dignitaries in attendance was Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, ministers, principal secretaries and diplomats.
In her address, Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso urged the public to go to health centres and get tested so they know their HIV status and avoid spreading it to their partners.
Her Majesty also called on stakeholders to redouble efforts to turn the tide against the prevalence of the pandemic in Lesotho. The Mountain Kingdom’s HIV-prevalence of 23 percent is the second highest in the world behind Swaziland’s 26 percent.
“We have regressed in the fight against HIV and AIDS, so let us hold hands as the public, government, development partners and civil society to fight this lethal disease. I appeal to you to visit health centres to know your status,” Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso said.
She also implored pregnant women to seek treatment and medical advice to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“We have supplemented this year’s theme with ‘Treat a Child, Sustain a Nation,’” Her Majesty said.
“The supplementary theme was coined following the realisation that parents were still hesitant to take their children to health centres where they can get help.”
Health Minister, Dr Molotsi Monyamane, said government was committed to fighting the pandemic.
“His Majesty King Letsie III showed us the way in the Speech from the Throne when opening parliament early this year, and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili also made a commitment to fight HIV/AIDS during his speech to endorse the Sustainable Development Goals in September,” he said, adding that the ministry was working on decentralising its operations to reach as many people infected and affected by the disease as possible.
In his remarks, United States Ambassador, Mathew Harrington, committed to increasing the number of people on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) in Lesotho.
“Today, 7 600 HIV-positive Basotho children are on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment. We aim to increase that number significantly by this time next year,” he said.
“Based on significant increases in HIV testing rates, we expect Lesotho will be able to report meaningful progress once the final results of the 2014 Demographic Health Survey become available.”
Mr Harrington added: “The preliminary report from that survey indicates that 85 percent of Basotho have been tested at least once, up from 68.8 percent in 2009.
“Furthermore, 58 percent of Basotho were tested in the past year, up from 42 percent in 2009. As more Basotho get tested more often, more HIV-positive Basotho will know their status.”