World AIDS Day 2012: A Memorial in Lesotho
The Foundation team in Lesotho joined the rest of the world in commemorating World AIDS Day on December 1, 2012 at Ha-Thetsane Lifefo Football Ground. The event, “Getting to Zero, Zero New Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-related Deaths,” was graced by the presence of His Majesty King Letsie III, the Honourable Minister of Health Dr. Pinkie Manamolela, Honourable Minister of Gender, Youth and Recreation Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, and Professor Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS Regional Director.
The commemoration was launched with marches from three starting points. One march, which started from Likotsi Traffic Circle, was led by Minister of Health Dr. Pinkie Manamolela. The second march, led by Honourable Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, began at Ha-Thetsane Foot Bridge, and the third march began at Ratjomose village. The marches converged at Ha-Thetsane Lifefo Football Ground.
After His Majesty opened the event by lighting a memorial candle, the crowd stood for a moment of silence in memory of lives lost to HIV and AIDS and those affected and living with the virus.
During his speech, the President of Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENEPHWA) Bakoena Chele said he appreciates what the world is doing by coming together and fighting against the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
Stakeholders assembled presentations around the celebration grounds, and EGPAF was amongst those who hosted a tent. Reading materials were distributed from the EGPAF tent, and the public had the opportunity to comment on the services rendered. Staff members answered questions and provided information on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).
His Majesty King Letsie III and the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation visited displays where each stakeholder showed their work, and EGPAF staff had the opportunity to welcome His Majesty to its booth. Family and Community Outreach Advisor Marethabile Nei gave a brief explanation of EGPAF’s work in Lesotho.
Honourable Minister of Health Dr. Pinkie Manamolela said Lesotho still has the third –highest HIV prevalence of any country. Lesotho has been battling the disease since the first case of HIV was diagnosed in-country in 1986.
An estimated 281,000 people are living with HIV in Lesotho, and more young women are living with HIV than men. The most affected districts are Maseru, Leribe and Mohale’s Hoek , but the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) has shown a decrease in AIDS-related deaths.
During his speech, His Majesty King Letsie III said that World AIDS Day is important to the Basotho nation as to the country continues to fight this pandemic. It is a sad day for those who have lost their loved ones, and for the orphans who lost their parents in the battle with HIV and AIDS.
At the end of the event, the public enjoyed entertainment by Ha Thetsane Youth Club and students from the National University of Lesotho, who performed a drama about people being victimized because of their HIV status.
Mapalesa Lemeke is Executive Assistant and Communications Officer for the Foundation, based in Lesotho.