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Too early to celebrate

The National Aids Commission (Nac) this week
announced a 0.2 percent drop in Lesotho’s HIV prevalence rate.

The commission said the prevalence rate was lowest among people aged between 15 to 19.

Nearly 750 000 people have been tested for HIV since 2007, the commission said.

That is encouraging news for a country with the third highest HIV prevalence rate in the world.

Yet we should not start celebrating because the battle against the scourge is far from being tamed.

Victory is by no means within our reach. 

We need to redouble our prevention and treatment efforts if we are to win the battle against the virus that had dissipated our workforce and left us with 200 000 orphans to look after.

At the current rate, the disease is killing nearly 20 000 Basotho every year.

Its impact on households and the national economy has been colossal.

Its financial cost to the country is galloping although donors are helping us pay the bill.

A closer look at the Nac’s announcement shows that although the prevalence rate had stabilised, the infection rate in the 30 to 39 demographic group remains high at 40 percent.

These statistics should jolt us into action for that group constitutes the majority of Lesotho’s workforce.

People aged between 30 and 39 are at the prime of their careers and reproductive cycles.

The Nac says it is now planning to launch a
new five-year national strategic plan to combat HIV and Aids.

We hope that this time the commission will be more organised especially after the logistical problems that almost derailed the previous strategic plan.

Last month, a report by the auditor general said the national strategic plan which was launched in 2006 and ended last year had been a near-disaster.

The report said money for some campaigns had come late and programmes had not been implemented on time.

Even when the programmes were implemented the logistics were chaotic, the report said.

The Nac must therefore learn from these mistakes if the new strategic plan is to achieve the desired goals.

An efficient plan is crucial.

With almost a quarter of Lesotho’s 1.8 million people infected with the disease, Nac cannot afford to be complacent.

More investment must be made in prevention strategies.

More people must be encouraged to get tested so they get treatment early and take measures to avoid spreading the virus.

The commission must realise that it is at the centre of the battle against the scourge so its systems must be efficient.

So should be its strategy.

As is the case with any strategic plan, the devil is in the implementation.

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