THE return of the fight against HIV/AIDS on government’s agenda is certainly welcome news. As reported elsewhere in this edition, King Letsie III made a clarion call for more to be done to nip the pandemic in the bud in his Speech from the Throne.
In previous years, the HIV/AIDS fight had taken a backburner as funding for programmes to combat the disease had dwindled compounded by the disbandment of the National Aids Commission in 2011 following a damning report that revealed that it had become a burden to taxpayers.
Before the NAC was disbanded, the country’s HIV-prevalence was third behind Swaziland and Botswana respectively, although it was already at 23 percent.
However, Lesotho has since leapfrogged Botswana into second place as the country with the highest prevalence in the world, while Swaziland leads the pack at 26 percent, and Botswana is now at 19 percent.
It does not require a rocket scientist to decipher that Batswana are doing something right that we are not. While Lesotho slackened and lost momentum in addressing the root causes of the pandemic, Botswana was unrelenting in efficiently managing and coordinating interventions against any further infections.
The lack of seriousness attached to this issue in Lesotho was clearly illustrated in its fleeting mention in political parties’ manifestoes ahead of the 28 February 2015 National Assembly elections, with some omitting the issue altogether.
While the reasons for disbanding the NAC were clearly legitimate and long overdue, government’s promise to promptly set up another commission with clearly defined functional parameters and a regulatory authority to ensure accountability, never materialised.
Instead, the staggering transmission rates of 62 people being infected with HIV on a daily basis in Lesotho, while 50 deaths related to the pandemic also taking place every day, continued unabated.
It’s certainly about time that government firmly responded to this catastrophe and we can only wish Health Minister ‘Molotsi Monyamane well in his efforts to combat the scourge as reported in this edition.
While we agree with Dr Monyamane’s intention to decentralise financial resources and authority to local councils across the country, there remains a need for an agency to coordinate all programmes related to HIV/AIDS in the country to avoid a haphazard modus operandi.
This is more so in light of the findings of the NAC report which revealed that the commission failed to make progress because government was not directly participating in its day-to-day operations and administration.
Lesotho needs a more efficient commission that ensures the harmonisation and alignment of the national response to HIV and AIDS.
Although it is common knowledge that government is hamstrung in as far as resources are concerned, it needs to take a leading role and not be a mere spectator. Only then can development and humanitarian agencies be galvanised into action once again to assist initiatives that are already in motion.
Addressing this issue once and for all requires a newfound sense of urgency and creativity as the lives of mostly young and productive Basotho are being untimely cut short much to the detriment of this nation’s development.
With the current infection rate, it was no overstatement on King Letsie III’s part to say we risk having HIV/AIDS leading us to extinction as a society.