HIV/AIDS is prevalent in Maseru and Lesotho. I am not the expert in this area, but see and hear it everywhere. There are several NGO’s and US Government funded programs trying to assist and educate the Basotho people.
The obvious problem is sex. It is perfectly acceptable in this culture for a man to have multiple partners, even multiple wives. Even though the king has only one wife, there were rumors that he would take another if their third child was another girl. Lucky for the queen, the child was a boy. Men spread the disease, but it is also spread from mother to baby during birth and through breast feeding. There are efforts to educated people about the dangers of sex. There are also campaigns to circumcise men and to stop breastfeeding. That last one is very difficult, since there are strong campaigns promoting breastfeeding as the best nutrition for a baby.
According to recent estimates, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Lesotho is about 23.2%, the third-highest rate in the world” This quote is from PSI an organization dedicated to educating people about the disease and giving away condoms. Sure we laugh that all they do is give away condoms, but from what we have seen on our Hash hikes in the mountains, people are using them. Check out their website for more information on the good work that this organization does. http://www.psi.org/lesotho
What list of quotes would be complete without Wikipedia? “In urban areas, about 50% of women under 40 have HIV. Lesotho Bureau of Statistics stated that in 2001 life expectancy was estimated at 48 years for men and 56 for women. Recent statistics estimate about 37 years. According to the CIA's World Factbook, the average life expectancy is 41.18 for men and 39.54 for women.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_Lesotho and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesotho
USAID, PEPFAR, MCC, and CDC all have a strong presence in Lesotho. The rates of HIV and AIDS are staggering and there is plenty of work for all of these organizations.
Our nanny is a very sweet woman. She is probably my age or just younger, but raised her sister (our babysitter) and her own three kids, along with other family over the years. Her father passed away some time ago and her mother passed away in the last year. She is the second oldest in the family, but seems to be the one that all the brother/s and sisters turn to. I often think she is crazy leaving family at home and her children, who are 18 months, 4, and 13 (?) home to take care of an 18 month old and a 3 year old. But I think she wants to get out of her house.
Last week ‘m’e came to me asking about TB. She had just been told that her brother was in the hospital with it. She wanted to know if she should visit with him. We broke out Where there are no Doctors and she had a better idea of the illness. I asked at the time if her brother had HIV and she said no. Turns out he did not have TB, but he does have HIV. She is very upset, because a sister moved the brother to her house. She doesn’t have the ability to care for him and she is worried that her little kids might be exposed to HIV.
Every Saturday the locally engaged staff at the Embassy attend funerals. Friends and family members are dying rapidly from HIV and AIDS or complications. Most times the family of the deceased will hide the true cause of death, but when pressed will admit that the cause was AIDS. This is especially difficult to hide when the funeral is for a 30 year old.
We have yet to attend a funeral. I am just getting used to the idea that the life expectancy is so short. The family dynamic here is so different, it reminds me of stories from the US colonial days. Those stories always implied short life spans, but they were stories and i can never really believe they were true. Here death is common and old age is not.