Health Minister Dr Molotsi Monyamane on Thursday received an HIV Viral Load Testing Machine for Butha-Buthe district from SolidarMed—a nongovernmental organization (NGO) headquartered in Switzerland.
Since 2005, SolidarMed has been supporting Seboche and Paray hospitals and surrounding health centres in the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.
A core theme of the programme is ensuring quality treatment for HIV patients and early diagnosis of the virus and tuberculosis to avert new infections.
Dr Monyamane on Friday said the machine would go a long way in strengthening the country’s fight against HIV whose prevalence rate is now 25 percent—the second highest in the world.
Swaziland has the dubious honour of topping the standings at 26 percent.
Dr Monyamane further said following Friday’s donation, Lesotho now has six HIV Viral Load Testing Machines.
“We have viral load testing machines in Mafeteng, Leribe, Maseru, Berea and Mohale’s Hoek and the presence of this equipment is assisting in strengthening our HIV and AIDS response and services. We are working hard, as a country, to reduce the number of new infections,” Dr Monyamane said.
“The machine is again going to be helpful because we are going to be able to monitor the resistance of virus even when the person is on treatment. This is going to help us reach our 90/90/90 target and put an end to new infections among our people.”
According to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) report released by the government on Wednesday, Lesotho’s HIV-prevalence rate has increased from 23 percent to 25 percent.
“Twenty-five percent of adults aged between 15-49 in Lesotho are infected with HIV. In both 2004 and 2009, the HIV prevalence rate for adults was slightly less – 23 percent,” reads the report.
The report further notes the HIV-prevalence rate is 30 percent among women and 19 percent among men, with Maseru topping all the districts at 28 percent.
“Overall, 35 percent of couples have at least one partner with HIV. In 20 percent of couples, both partners are HIV-positive. Fifteen-percent of couples are discordant, that is, one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative,” the report adds.
However, Dr Monyamane said the new machinery donated on Thursday would help in the fight against the disease.
“We have to focus on preventive measures because they are cost-effective compared to treatment,” Dr Monyamane said.
“We have realised that 76 percent of the youth do not have full information and education about HIV and we have to start by making HIV and AIDS part of the curriculum in schools. There must be easy access to condoms, there must be friendly services to the youth, and more campaigns on the advantages of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC),” the minister said.
He added: “We are very grateful to have received the machine because this means we won’t have to send tissue for HIV-testing outside the country.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing on Wednesday said the latest HIV figures were a grave cause for concern.
“It is estimated that Lesotho’s new HIV-infections are 52 per day while AIDS-related deaths are 26 per day. This is not a good sign at all.
“I am now told that the Ministry of Health has released a new report stating that Lesotho’s prevalence rate is now 25 percent.
“Suppose Swaziland, which is number one in the world has performed better and their prevalence rate has decreased, Lesotho will now be number one and we should all be worried,” Mr Metsing said.
“It is true that more people are on treatment but we don’t want this 25 percent. Let us all work hard to reverse this number.
“We need to work hard to achieve zero infections, no discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Other countries have achieved this and we can also do the same because we are not different from them.”