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It does begin with you

EVERY day we are reminded of the grim reality of HIV when we see relatives, friends, neighbours and workmates succumbing to Aids-related illnesses.
Depressing statistics are always at hand to complete the picture of the crisis in Lesotho.
About 270 000 people — nearly a quarter of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people — are said to be living with HIV and Aids.
At least 300 000 children have been orphaned after losing either a parent or both to the pandemic.
Yet these figures are no longer shocking to the majority of Basotho.
What’s rather shocking is how these numbers have failed to jolt us into becoming a responsible people.
As the world commemorated World Aids Day on Wednesday, it seemed the focus was mainly on the perils of reduced funding for the epidemic.
Yes, access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support does not come cheap.
HIV patients require expensive cocktails of antiretroviral drugs to prolong their lives.
While Africa depends on donor funds for that — and we hope donor funds will not dry up but increase — there is one thing we can do ourselves, poor as we are.
Behaviour change!
It’s high time we accepted that we have a serious battle on our hands.
If we don’t step up our fight against the scourge we will continue burying our loved ones in numbers.
The painful truth, which we will have to live with, is that our salvation lies not in the discovery of a cure but in stopping new infections.
It’s a battle that requires the effort of the infected, affected and the uninfected.
We must realise that through our actions we either help fight or worsen this pandemic which has wreaked havoc in Lesotho.
The National Aids Commission says multiple concurrent sexual partnerships are one of the biggest causes of the high rates of HIV infection in the country.
The practice, defined as having more than one sex partner at a time, is blamed by aid agencies for fuelling the spread of the pandemic.
However, they believe HIV could be reduced drastically if people stopped having multiple sexual partners.
This is what we see as the biggest challenge for Lesotho.
The problem is not lack of information.
It’s the cavalier attitude.
Most men and women see it as fashionable to have multiple sex partners at a time.
Yet the crisis must have by now jolted them to change their dangerous ways.
Men and women must be equal partners in making decisions about sex.
It is the responsibility of every one of us to help those around us know the importance of abstinence, safe sex and getting tested early.
There are those who have tested positive already.
This is not the end but rather the beginning.
Those who are positive have an even bigger responsibility of being role models in society and showing those around them that one’s HIV status does not limit their horizon.
That way we can conquer this pandemic.

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