health

Feb. 16, 2022

LINEO MABEKEBEKE

2 min read

New HIV variant not a threat to Lesotho

New HIV variant not a threat to Lesotho

The Minister of Health, Semano Sekatle

Story highlights

  • All individuals whose HIV status is positive are urged to adhere well to lifelong HIV treatment
  • All the people who do not know their HIV status are encouraged to test

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THE new HIV variant that has surfaced in the Netherlands in Europe is currently not a public health threat to Lesotho, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry said the highly virulent variant of HIV-1 virus published on February 4 by a group of scientists identified among 109 individuals in the Netherlands was no cause for concern at home for now.

“The anti-retroviral therapy - ART (HIV treatment) provided and available to all people living with HIV in Lesotho is highly effective at managing the HIV variants present in Lesotho,” the ministry said in a statement.

It has also encouraged all the people who do not know their HIV status, to test.

 “All individuals whose HIV status is positive are highly recommended to initiate and adhere well to lifelong HIV treatment so at to allow them to live long, healthy, normal and productive lives,” the statement said.

“All individuals whose HIV status is negative are also urged to maintain this status by accessing HIV prevention services.”

The ministry said the findings emphasised the importance of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidance that individuals at risk of acquiring HIV should access regular testing to allow them early diagnosis followed by immediate treatment.

It will limit the amount of time HIV can damage an individual’s immune system and jeopardise their health. It will also ensure that the HIV is suppressed as quickly as possible, in the process, preventing transmission to other individuals.

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Research has shown that when a person living with HIV is on regular treatment, it lowers the amount of virus in their body to undetectable levels until there is zero risk of passing it on to others, a similar case with the newly discovered variant.

However, research has also shown that the pace of HIV testing has declined uniformly across the world and that fewer people living with HIV are not starting treatment as the COVID-19 pandemic saw resources in many countries diverted and STI and HIV testing sites, in particular, were severely affected. 

There were approximately 37.7 million people across the globe with HIV in 2020. Of these, 36 million were adults and 1.7 million were children aged between 0 and 14 years.

More than half (53 percent) of the infected people were women and girls.

The prevalence of HIV among adults aged from 15 to 59 years in Lesotho is 25.6 percent, 30.4 percent among females and 20.8 percent among males.

This corresponds to approximately 306 000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) aged between 15 and 59 years in Lesotho.

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