Social and cultural factors also pose barriers to preventative measures. Some of these issues are highlighted by the wide gender disparity in HIV testing rates. According to old UNAIDS data from 2009, 68.8% of females in the country had been tested for HIV at some point in their life, compared with only 39.3% for males. From my brief time in Lesotho, it seems that gender disparity hasn’t changed much. Female empowerment campaigns and Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) efforts likely contribute to the higher female testing rate relative to males. So too, I suspect, does a culture of male denial. Reading through a TTL baby’s intake packet and noticing that the baby’s mother was HIV-positive while the father’s status was “unknown and refused testing” was one of the more frustrating moments during my month at TTL. The silver lining was an HIV-negative baby, one of many PMTCT success stories.
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation Touching Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity Touching Tiny Lives (TTL).