Lesotho’s HIV Testing Program Has Not Met Goals, Groups Say
An HIV testing campaign launched in Lesotho in 2005 has failed to meet its goals because of a lack of funding and administrative issues, according to a report released on Tuesday by Human Rights Watch and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The campaign aimed to test 1.3 million people over age 12, but as of August 2007, about 25,000 people had been tested for HIV. Training counselors and expanding support services for people living with HIV/AIDS also were part of the campaign's goals, but inadequate funding and administrative failures deterred progress in both areas, the report said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/18).
Although the groups noted that Lesotho was one of the first nations to implement a mass testing campaign, the report also found that the campaign did not take adequate steps to ensure confidentiality and other rights (Georgy, Reuters South Africa, 11/18). According to the report, Lesotho's testing program did not ensure that people undergoing HIV tests gave informed consent. In the report, the groups also called for access to follow-up counseling and care after testing. "Lesotho's program was noble in ambition but weak in action," the groups said in a statement (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/18). Michaela Clayton of ARASA said, "The administrative failures also meant that the program was unable to adequately safeguard people's rights" (Reuters South Africa, 11/18).
AFP/Yahoo! News reports that Lesotho is among the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, with 23.2% of people ages 15 to 49 living with the disease (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/18). "Community-based HIV testing programs have real potential for reaching people who are otherwise unlikely to test," Joseph Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS and human rights program at HRW, said, adding, "It sounds like a simple approach, but for these programs to be truly successful, they must provide counseling, ensure confidentiality and link people to HIV prevention and treatment services" (Reuters South Africa, 11/18).
The report is available online.