From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
First Lady of Lesotho: Increase in AIDS Orphans Leads to Major
"Frank Imhoff" <email@example.com>
Tue, 30 Mar 2004 05:55:37 -0600
First Lady of Lesotho: Increase in AIDS Orphans Leads to Major Social
"Pandemic knows no borders," LWF General Secretary Noko says
GENEVA, 30 March 2004 (LWI) - Mathato Mosisili, wife of Prime Minister
of Lesotho, Pakalitha Mosisili, has called for support from the
international community to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the
Kingdom of Lesotho. At a 24 March press conference held during her
three-day visit to the Lutheran Word Federation (LWF) Secretariat here,
the First Lady affirmed that Lesotho has the fourth highest HIV/AIDS
infection rate in the world.
According to data from UNAIDS, a total of 360,000 people out of an
overall population in Lesotho of over 2 million were living with
HIV/AIDS at the end of 2002. Three hundred and thirty thousand out of a
million people in the adult age group, 15 to 49 years, are afflicted by
the pandemic-a 30 percent infection rate. The First Lady pointed to the
fact that the population group of 24 to 40 years, which contributes the
most significantly to the country's social, political, and economic
development, also is the most affected by the pandemic.
There were 92,000 orphans in Lesotho in 2003, according to reports from
UNICEF, Mosisili said. But, the Lesotho Ministry of Health currently
estimates 100,000 children to have been orphaned after losing their
parents to HIV/AIDS. She explained that a whole generation growing up
without parents would lead to major social upheaval that would threaten
the stability of the entire country. "A society that will grow without
proper guidance from parents," would continue.
Mosisili's visit to Geneva was by invitation of LWF General Secretary,
Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, who visited Lesotho last year. The main purpose of
the Geneva meeting, besides building contacts, was a workshop specially
set up for the delegation, which focused on strategic planning, project
write-up and reporting, as well as HIV/AIDS advocacy and fundraising,
public relations and media.
The First Lady was accompanied by staff from her office that was set up
in 2001 with the main objective of defending the rights of women and
children. In addition to developing mechanisms to support communities
and individuals afflicted by HIV/AIDS, the office provides needy orphans
with food, clothes, and education.
Noko said he was "deeply disturbed" over the scale of the HIV/AIDS
pandemic in Lesotho and its consequences for the population. "Unless the
international community resolves to support Lesotho, we shall soon talk
about a country with very few people," he said. "The HIV/AIDS pandemic
knows no borders. It must be confronted through the mobilization of both
material and human resources."
An LWF team will be sent to Lesotho in April to carry out a
comprehensive assessment of the current humanitarian situation,
according to the general secretary. It is planned that the LWF Standing
Committee for World Service will be informed of the results of the
analysis by the end of that month. Noko also appealed to the LWF member
churches and ecumenical community to assist Lesotho with its difficult
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Lesotho is
the first African country to provide its population with the possibility
of voluntarily testing for HIV/AIDS and of receiving psychological and
social counseling-Voluntary Counseling and Testing - VCT. The government
has established a National AIDS Commission in response to the pandemic.
Mosisili reported that preventive measures to avoid mother-to-child
transmission of the HIV virus-Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission
- PMTC-are available free of charge at 50 percent of the hospitals run
by the government. But anti-retroviral medicines, which prevent the
virus from multiplying and thus avoid further weakening of the immune
system, are subject to payment, and are therefore inaccessible to the
mostly poverty-stricken population. Only one hospital in Lesotho
currently provides these medicines free of charge. The WHO is backing
the Lesotho Ministry of Health in setting up medical facilities so that
at least 28,000 people can be treated with anti-retroviral medicines as
In describing the government initiative, Mosisili said the "Government
treats the HIV/AIDS pandemic in a multi-sectoral manner as it is
apparently not a strictly health issue." The objective of the "know your
status" government campaign, implemented at the beginning of this year
with a publicized HIV/AIDS test of Prime Minister Mosisili, was to
increase awareness about the health issue, encourage the population to
take the HIV/AIDS test, and fight fear and stigmatization.
The First Lady pointed out the important role of the Lesotho churches in
relation to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, but also drew attention
to the cultural barriers that make it difficult for the churches to
dialogue openly about the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The Kingdom of Lesotho, which gained independence from Great Britain in
1966, is one of the world's least-developed countries. More than half
of the population lives below the poverty line. (803 words)
(A contribution by Anne-Christin Sievers and Klaudia Zimmermann, youth
interns in the LWF Office for Communication Services.)
[The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 136 member
churches in 76 countries representing 62.3 million of the almost 66
million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member
churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith
relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights,
communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.
Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service.
Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent
positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the
dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be
freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]
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