Two years ago Mopeli Mofoka, 39, left his wife and child in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, and joined the more than 50,000 men pushed by poverty and unemployment in their home country to seek work on mines in neighbouring South Africa. It was his second stint as a miner the first had been 15 years earlier. This time he was hired as a sub-contractor, which meant that despite testing positive for HIV during his preliminary health screening he did not have access to the on-site health services available to mine employees. When his health began deteriorating 18 months later, he went to a local public hospital but was turned away because he lacked a South African identity document. His only option was to return home, where he is receiving treatment for tuberculosis (TB) at a government clinic run in partnership with international medical aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontires (MSF) in Morija, about 50km south of Maseru, the capital.
Teams of people will start going door-to-door across Lesotho next month to give everyone over the age of 12 the chance to have an on-the-spot HIV test.
The success of Lesotho's plan to increase access to HIV/AIDS treatment will depend on a national commitment to being tested for the virus and a R75 million (US 12.5 million) financial boost.
The tiny Southern African kingdom of Lesotho is one of the world's worst AIDS-hit countries with a 27% infection rate, but only about 11% of people in need have access to free anti-retroviral drug treatment.
A World Bank mission delving into Lesotho's humanitarian crisis was launched on Wednesday, with emphasis placed on building the capacity of local institutions to handle AIDS and help manage the country's drought-induced food shortages. There are a number of groups who want to work on HIV/AIDS, but fail because they cannot write compelling proposals, and who cannot yet be relied upon to see that results are reached, Julie McLaughlin, who co-heads the Bank's HIV/AIDS Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Project for Lesotho, told a meeting of stakeholders. Thirty-one percent of adult Basotho are HIV-positive, according to official government figures. But the data is now two years old, and a senior Western diplomatic source told PlusNews that preliminary findings from a recent survey by the health ministry and UNAIDS indicated that currently 36 percent of the adult population was living with the virus. Over the past five years, the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has awarded Lesotho US $29 million for AIDS-related programmes, and $5 million for tuberculosis prevention and mitigation efforts. This was grant financing, which required no repayment. While Lesotho's health ministry had made strides in coming to grips with a disease, which was exacerbating the nation's acute food crisis by undermining agricultural production, the stakeholders meeting with the World Bank mission felt local NGOs and the private sector had more to contribute. Some 600,000 Basotho out of a national population of 2.2 million currently depend on emergency food relief from the World Food Programme. The goal of the World Bank's mission is to make recommendations to the government on providing local capacity to handle AIDS projects, in time for the government's next fiscal year, which commences in 2005.(Source: IRIN PLUSNEWS,4 February)
Although governments have increasingly become aware of the problem of orphans and vulnerable children in Southern Africa, countries still lacked the capacity to effectively deal with the problem, a regional workshop heard on 10 Nov. 2003. Government representatives and NGOs from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe met in Maseru, Lesotho, to draw up technical strategies to deal with children affected by HIV/AIDS for the five-day meeting.The objective was to come away with a manual to assist these countries. Some countries like Lesotho were in particular need of guidance. But there had been some movement within government department to strengthen their response to orphans, noted UNICEF representative. One of the delegates attending the workshop, Limakatso Chisepo, a director of social welfare in Lesotho's department of health and social welfare, hoped the meeting would produce an implementable work plan. We've been attending workshops of this nature for some time now, and the main problem is there are still not enough resources to support any projects we come up with. She called for increased political will and practical orphan policies from the region's governments. We need greater support and better coordination of different efforts, otherwise the time we spend attending the workshops will be wasted.(Source: PLUSNEWS 10 November 2003). Links:http://www.plusnews.org/aidsfp.asp?SelectRegion=Southern_Africa
The 14 member nations of the Southern African Development Community are scheduled to meet on Friday in Lesotho to develop a joint plan to combat AIDS in the region, officials announced last week, Reuters reports. The region, where about 1% of the world's population lives, has an estimated 40% of the world's HIV-positive people, according to the United Nations Development Programme. Despite all our efforts, the disease is not abating. By sharing our experiences in care, treatment and education about HIV/AIDS, we might be able to come up with a successful common strategy, Esther Kanaimba, SADC spokesperson, said. The SADC member nations include Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Reuters, 6/27). (Source: Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report at kaisernetwork.org - daily reports, Jul 01, 2003)