Lesotho’s Health Minister To Announce Plan for Universal HIV Testing in Country
Lesotho's Health Minister Motloheloa Phooko said at a recent press conference that he will try to implement universal HIV testing in the country, adding that the government will soon "go door to door" to test people for the virus, the Boston Globe reports. World Health Organization HIV/AIDS Programme Director Jim Yong Kim late last month during a three-day visit to Lesotho persuaded Phooko to push for universal testing, and Phooko said he will announce a detailed testing plan on Dec. 1 -- World AIDS Day -- that he said will "make history." Kim told many groups that universal testing might be as important as a "moderately effective" HIV vaccine in preventing the spread of the virus. He has been "scurrying" for support on a universal testing program from U.N. department leaders, foreign ambassadors, charity workers, physicians, nurses, HIV-positive people and Christian health workers in the country, according to the Globe (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 10/23).
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and Lesotho's Catholic Archbishop Bernard Mohalisi in March 2004 both underwent a public HIV test, and Mosisili urged other officials to get tested to break down the stigma associated with the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/10/04). However, only 21,000 people -- about 1% of the country's population -- have been tested for HIV during the past year, according to the Globe. Phooko said that if universal HIV testing were implemented, "we need to follow that up and make sure everyone would have access to treatment." Many of the country's physicians work in South Africa, with only about 15 of the country's doctors working in public hospitals and clinics in Lesotho. The number of people taking antiretroviral drugs in Lesotho has increased from 400 one year ago to 5,500 currently, the Globe reports. About one in three adults in the country with a population of nearly two million are living with HIV (Boston Globe, 10/23).