MASERU — Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli on Friday described HIV/Aids as a threat to national security.
Lt Gen Kamoli was speaking at the official launch of the Lesotho Defence Force voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programme held at the Cooperative College in Maseru.
“Since the military forms part of society, it goes without saying that HIV/Aids also threatens the security of the military and military operations because of the negative effects on the deployability (sic) of our forces,” he said. The army commander added that “HIV/Aids is not only a health problem but also poses an actual threat to national security”.
Lesotho, which recorded its first HIV/Aids case in 1986, has been among the worst hit by the pandemic in southern Africa. At least one in every four people are said to be HIV positive, according to aid agencies. But Lt Gen Kamoli said while the fight against HIV/Aids is still to be won, there is need for “concerted efforts to come up with new strategies to eradicate the pandemic”.
He said the voluntary medical male circumcision programme had come at the right time to “fortify the already existing HIV prevention programmes”.
Lt Gen Kamoli said the male circumcision programme had been proven to be effective in the fight against the spread of HIV/Aids. He urged officers in the LDF “to take this opportunity not only to undergo male circumcision but also spread the word that it is vital”.
Speaking at the same occasion, the United States’ Chargé d’Affaires, Carl Fox, said at least 25 percent of Lesotho’s adults are living with HIV adding this should serve as a stark reminder of the challenges in controlling the disease. He said the VMMC had been shown to reduce men’s risk of getting HIV by approximately 60 percent.
“Because VMMC is a one-time procedure that confers life-long partial protection against HIV, these programmes are vital short-term investments with long-term benefits,” Fox said. “VMMC also provides a crucial opportunity to reach men and boys with HIV testing and counselling services and other HIV services, including treatment.”
He commended the LDF for acknowledging the importance of VMMC as part of an effective HIV prevention programme. “The LDF’s VMMC programme offers a comprehensive package of services reaching not only military personnel and their families but other uniformed personnel, including police and correctional officers, as well as civilians living near military bases,” he said.
The LDF said at least 2 900 males had undergone voluntary male medical circumcision since October last year.