MASERU–Lesotho commemorated World AIDS Day on Monday, 1 December at Thaba-Bosiu in Maseru. The 19th century fortress provided an ideal setting and a rallying point for the nation’s leaders to respond to a myriad of challenges in addressing the HIV & AIDS epidemic.
Lesotho is now second worldwide in HIV prevalence, with 26,000 new infections in 2013. There are around 360,000 people living with HIV in Lesotho and 50% of Basotho do not know their HIV status.
“Many African countries have made advances in efforts to reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS–and people living with HIV are living longer and more productive lives,” said Ms. Karla Robin Hershey, UN Resident Coordinator in Lesotho.
“We must take urgent steps in Lesotho to re join the rest of the world.”
World AIDS Day served as an important reminder that HIV has not gone away and there is still a vital need to raise more resources, increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education and service delivery across the country.
Stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. It prevents people from seeking HIV services, delays access to life-saving treatments and it contributes to poor adherence.
World AIDS Day was an opportunity for people to reunite, re-energise and recommit in fight against HIV. Monday’s event also provided a memorial for loved ones who have died from AIDS-related conditions.
The national commemoration was capped by stirring remarks from His Majesty King Letsie III, who called for a coordinated response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
“We are cognisant of the need for a coordinated National HIV and AIDS response and we’ll spare no efforts to put a coordination mechanism in place.”
His Majesty also presented the Stories of Hope Awards, the first national HIV & AIDS motivation awards presented to six individuals who demonstrated excellence, outstanding motivation and for positively living with HIV over time.
The awards provided an opportunity to recognise, support and publicize outstanding role models, motivators and champions acting to normalize and curb the spread of HIV in Lesotho. The first such awards were presented to Ms Thandeka Ramantsoe, Mr Tlelase Mokhele, Ms ‘Macorina Phakisi, Ms Madamane Damane, Mr Kwekwe Mokebisa, and Mr Thomas Monese.
The UN Resident Coordinator also read United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks.
“On this World AIDS Day, I call on world leaders to unite in our common cause. We have started to turn the tide. We have set a bold target. Let us end AIDS together by 2030.”