The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small country of 2 million people. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is also very dependent on South Africa for jobs, resources and healthcare.
The average life expectancy in Lesotho is 50 years for men and 48 years for women. This low life expectancy is the result of the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The number one cause of death in Lesotho, HIV/AIDS has a mortality rate of 38.2 percent. The mortality rate for HIV/AIDS peaks in the 40-49 age group and nearly a quarter of the population between ages 15-49 are infected with HIV.
HIV/AIDS is the most common communicable disease in Lesotho. Perhaps the reason that communicable diseases are so pervasive in Lesotho is because behavioral risk factors are ubiquitous. Behavioral risk factors include unsafe sex, poor diet, tobacco smoke and drug and alcohol use. For deaths attributed to behavioral risk factors, unsafe sex is by far the most common, and attributes to 45.8 percent of deaths.
Unsurprisingly, unsafe sex is also the number one mode of transmission for HIV/AIDS. Other modes of transmission include pregnancy, breastfeeding and needle-sharing.
HIV transmission is clearly a problem in Lesotho but is not impossible to solve. The government of Lesotho and other organizations have implemented projects that strive to address the root causes of HIV transmission and provide treatment to as many sick people as possible.
In April 2016, the government of Lesotho provided universal treatment for persons with HIV. Lesotho has also committed to achieving the UNAIDS goal of 90-90-90 by 2020. With the 90-90-90 goal, 90 percent of all people with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV will receive consistent treatment and 90 percent of people receiving treatment for their HIV will receive viral load suppression.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Lesotho has collaborated with the Ministry of Health since 2007. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been instrumental in allowing CDC Lesotho to assist the Ministry of Health in implementing a national HIV program. Through PEPFAR, CDC Lesotho has also provided all community-based testing for HIV.
Other projects and organizations aim to tackle the root causes of unsafe sex in Lesotho. Help Lesotho is an advocacy organization that, among many goals, promotes the prevention of HIV transmission. Help Lesotho specifies that an individual’s behavior is the only risk factor for contracting HIV.
Thus, Help Lesotho’s number one recommendation for avoiding HIV is wearing condoms. Their second two recommendations are taking prescribed treatment to prevent transmission and getting informed about HIV transmission.
The World Bank
A World Bank-funded team in Lesotho has promoted safe sex with lottery tickets. The researchers tested for two STIs in two groups of volunteers in Lesotho. Participants would return every four months for testing. Volunteers in the first group received a stipend for returning. Volunteers in the second group received a lottery ticket.
If the volunteers did not test positive for HIV, they would be entered into the lottery for a prize of $50, a large sum in Lesotho. The study found that after two years, the incidence of HIV infections decreased by 21.4 percent in the lottery-ticket group versus the stipend-group.
International Condom Day
On International Condom Day, February 2, 2017, three organizations teamed up to promote condom use in Lesotho. The United Nations Population Fund, Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association and Mothers to Mothers Organization held a condom use promotion in the village of Ha Ntema, Maboloka in the district of Mafeteng.
The goal of this day in Lesotho was to emphasize the importance of keeping condoms in the home. Previously, condoms were kept at the Councilor’s and Chief’s place and local shops, which made young people embarrassed to get them and ultimately discouraged condom use.
HIV is by far the most of common diseases in Lesotho, with a significantly higher mortality rate than other common diseases in Lesotho.
Despite this statistic, there is still hope. Efforts from the government of Lesotho and other organizations prove that addressing root causes and providing information and resources goes a long way in reducing the prevalence, incidence and mortality rate of HIV in Lesotho.
– Christiana Lano