THE Ministry of Health will continue its countrywide door-to-door HIV/AIDS testing and counselling campaign until April this year, HIV/AIDS Communications Officer Baroane Phenethi has said.
Mr Phenethi told the Lesotho Times said the ongoing campaign was part of the ministry’s mission to stem the Mountain Kingdom’s HIV-prevalence rate of 23 percent, the second highest in the world behind Swaziland’s 26 percent.
“The Ministry of Health launched the door-to-door HIV/AIDS testing and counselling campaign last August 2015 to enable every Mosotho to know their status,” said Mr Phenethi.
“The campaign will end in April 2016 and will target people who are unable able to visit health facilities to get tested because of busy schedules as well as those who are reluctant because of fear of the unknown.”
He said the premise of the door-to-door campaign was to interact with people in the familiar surroundings of their homes.
“In such an environment, it becomes much easier to discuss with them, and for the people to speak freely thereby increasing the chances for their agreeing to get tested,” Mr Phenethi said.
“Our main objective is to get as many people as possible tested for HIV to ensure we achieve the 90/90/90 Fast Track goals by 2020.”
Under the treatment target, 90 percent of all people living with HIV would know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV would receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy would have viral suppression.
He said the Ministry of Health was collaborating with village health workers in the campaign, although not everyone was comfortable to share information regarding their health with people they were familiar with.
“Some of the people don’t want their neighbours or people from within their communities to know their HIV status, so they opt not to cooperate with the village health workers and don’t allow them to enter their homes,” said Mr Phenethi.
“Some of the people view the campaign in a negative light, yet it is meant to assist them and not to discriminate or stigmatise them because of their health status.
“Basotho need to understand that the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic starts with every one of us. This campaign is not meant to punish anyone, but to ensure we are all aware of our HIV-status so that we can get the requisite assistance.”
He said those who tested positive would be encouraged to go to their nearest health centres for further assistance.
“As for those who test negative, they should keep it that way by desisting from risky behaviour like having multiple sexual partners and not using condoms,” Mr Phenethi noted.
“The campaign is also meant to bring awareness to the fact that stigma and discrimination play a major role in making HIV patients stop taking their treatment. So a lot of work still needs to be done in educating the populace so they can make informed decisions.”