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Close the tap of new HIV infections: King

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

His Majesty King Letsie III yesterday urged the nation to prevent new HIV infections.

“We must close the tap of new infections, invest more in preventing HIV, empower our communities to lead HIV and AIDS response,” the King.

He further indicated that the country should remove laws that stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV.

“Let us equalize and afford all the people of this country quality HIV and AIDS services, confront risks that threaten the progress made, eliminate inequalities of all forms and leave no one behind in national AIDS responses,” he added.

The King was speaking at an event organised to observe World AIDS Day at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Center in Maseru.

World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1 to bring awareness about the disease which continues to be a major global public health issue.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a chronic immune system disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that attacks the immune system and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections.

There is currently no effective cure for the disease. However, with the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART), the quantity of the virus in the blood can be considerably reduced.

This treatment helps the patients to live long and healthy lives without transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners through sex.

The King emphasized yesterday that HIV prevention remains key to closing a tap of new infections.

“I wish to call upon you all to prioritize and strengthen HIV prevention and increase the much needed investments thereon,” he said.

Speaking at the same occasions, Prime Minister Samuel Matekane, affirmed the government’s commitment to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

“Lesotho has made significant strides in responding to HIV and AIDS. We are reaching epidemic control and that is commendable,” Matekane said.

Lesotho and other countries such as Italy, Vietnam and Zimbabwe cut new HIV infections by more than 45 percent between 2015 and 2021.

This is one of the statistics released by UNAids ahead of the International Aids Conference opening in Montreal, Canada in July this year.

“Countries as diverse as Italy, Lesotho, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe cut new HIV infections by more than 45 percent between 2015 and 2021,” read the UNAids report.

It said these countries were able to cut new HIV infections because their national responses were adequately resourced, according to the report.

They also adopted sound policies and made prevention and treatment technologies widely available.

Titled ‘In Danger’, the UNAids global report revealed that the Aids response is off track and therefore urgent action is needed.

New data revealed in the report were upsetting.

Progress in the fight against Aids has been faltering, resources have been shrinking and inequalities have been widening, according to the report.

World AIDS Day this year was marked under the theme ‘Equalize”.

National AIDS Commission (NAC) Chairman, Reverend Ntokwenzani Xana yesterday said there were several inequalities Lesotho is still faced with, and they range from structural, legal, economic to programmatic inequalities.

According to Xana these inequalities undermine the strides made in the HIV & AIDS response and further exacerbate risks and vulnerabilities.

“It is imperative to note that there are ways to ensure that we reach our ultimate goal and that is by ensuring that there is availability, access and sustainability of quality HIV prevention, testing and treatment services for every Mosotho irrespective of economic status, gender, age and geographical location,” he said.

In 2013, the UNAids introduced the 90-90-90 concept.

The idea was that by 2020, 90 percent of people who are HIV infected will be diagnosed, 90 percent of people who are diagnosed will be on antiretroviral treatment and 90 percent of those who receive antiretrovirals will be virally suppressed.

Some countries faced insurmountable challenges to achieve high rates of HIV testing and treatment to reduce transmission but Lesotho was one of the few countries to accomplish the milestone.

In 2020 it was reported that Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment showed that Lesotho reached the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020.

90 percent of the population aware of their HIV status, 97 percent of those aware of their HIV status were on treatment, and 92 percent of those on treatment were virally suppressed.

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