UN report: HIV prevalence severely impacting development progress

Aug 13, 2014

While Lesotho is on track to meet education goals, 220,000 children have been made orphans by HIV/AIDS. Photo: UNDP Lesotho / Mark S. Cogan

- According to the 2013 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Status Report, issued jointly by the Government of Lesotho and the United Nations in July, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho is exacting a heavy toll on the country’s ability to attain all of the other development goals. Because of the huge impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the average life expectancy in Lesotho is just 48.7 years.

“Controlling the spread of HIV is critical to achieving our work in Lesotho,” said Karla Robin Hershey, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Lesotho.

“While there are just over 500 days until 2015, we will continue to work with the Government of Lesotho to make combatting the spread of HIV a key development priority.”

The 2013 MDG report notes that HIV/AIDS is impacting the nutrition and livelihood of individuals, as well as the viability of institutions. The epidemic is concentrated in the most productive age group, which undermines the abilities of people to feed and care for themselves and their families.

In Lesotho, the extended family provides the main social safety net, but that protection is diminishing. So widespread is the impact of HIV in Lesotho that it has left more than 220,000 children orphans. Children often become the heads of households—caring for siblings and grandparents.

The 2013 MDG Report notes that the Ministry of Health in 2012 sought to revitalize HIV prevention through intensive efforts, including district-level HIV symposiums to strengthen HIV prevention and ART services. Lesotho emphasizes condom promotion and distribution as a part of its prevention strategy in combating HIV, which is guided by World Health Organization standards on condom use.

However, the Report notes that while enough condoms have been procured, they are not readily available for use by people at the community level.  The Government has responded by installing 240 condom dispensers in all 10 districts of Lesotho and 100 condom baskets to Lesotho Government Ministries.

Yet, condom usage has not become routine among sexual partners in Lesotho, a problem compounded by weak distribution, availability of condoms, and lack of public knowledge.

“Condom use is a critical element in the comprehensive, effective and sustainable approach to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Ms. Alti Zwandor UNAIDS Country Director in Lesotho.

“When condoms are used correctly and consistently, they are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”

According to UNAIDS, Lesotho now ranks second worldwide in HIV prevalence among adults, just behind Swaziland.

Contact information

Mark S. Cogan, Communications and Reports Specialist
Tel: (+266) 22 313 790 ext. 377