ON December 1 Lesotho joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Aids Day.
The numbers we get every year indicate that unless we redouble our efforts to fight the disease our future looks bleak.
Lesotho’s HIV prevalence rate at 23.3 percent is the third highest in the world, behind only Botswana and Swaziland.
Every year nearly 20 000 people, especially the economically active, succumb to the disease leaving Lesotho a poorer country in terms of human capacity.
The burden imposed on Lesotho, classified as one of the poorest countries in the world, by HIV is getting heavier by day.
Statistics show that there are nearly 180 000 orphans in Lesotho and the numbers keep growing.
There are 64 new infections every day.
Our health system, which is already frail, can barely cope.
But it would be unfair to say we haven’t made some noticeable progress in this war.
Indeed, we have been fighting back and winning some battles.
Thanks to generous assistance from outsiders, we have made significant progress against the disease.
There are more people on treatment, more people are getting tested and transmission from mother-to-child has come down.
Even the prevalence rate is coming down, albeit slowly.
The government’s own efforts and those of the donor community have made it possible for Lesotho to continue feeding and educating many of the orphans.
Yet that does not mean we should rest on our laurels. More still needs to be done and the challenges keep mounting.
Money is one of those challenges.
Our resources are so few yet the problems are innumerable.
The outside help we have taken for granted over the years is no longer guaranteed.
UNAids, an aid agency, says due to the global economic crisis international assistance to poor countries fell 10 percent last year.
The omens don’t look good because it looks like the global economic situation will get worse before it gets better.
Lesotho must brace itself for more cuts in funding as the rich countries institute austerity measures to save their own economies and assist their own people.
The question then is what can Lesotho do to conserve the gains it made when things were normal?
Perhaps the answer lies in this year’s global theme for World Aids Day which says “Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths”.
That theme summarises what we should do as a country to win the war against HIV and Aids.
It provides a road-map of some sort on how we can have an HIV free generation.
To have “zero new HIV infections” we must intensify our efforts to educate people about the importance of abstinence, safe sex and being faithful to one uninfected partner.
To eradicate discrimination against those living with HIV and Aids we need to educate people that Aids is not a “sin disease”.
Discrimination against those who are HIV positive will only end when society understands that anyone regardless of race, social status, profession, ethnicity or religion can get infected and affected.
We need to constantly remind the people that HIV is not a death sentence as it was perceived to be years ago when the world did not know better and life-prolonging drugs were not available.
The mission to have “zero Aids-related-deaths” will only be achieved if we encourage more people to get tested early and put more on medication early.
That way we reduce new infections while saving the lives of those already infected.
In all this we must remember to be prudent with the limited resources we have.
We must learn to account for every cent we have, whether it has come from the national purse or donors.
We note with concern that Aids has become an industry on its own or a platform for some unscrupulous people to enrich themselves.
We also note that there are some people who think they can steal in the name of this national disaster.
We have heard of cases of people spiriting away donor funds meant for people infected and affected by HIV.
We can only say this behaviour is abhorrent and should be punished.