UNAIDS team heads for Lesotho

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Pascalinah Kabi

A HIGH-POWERED delegation of the United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS) is expected in the country today for a three day visit during which they will “capture highlights of the country’s HIV response” as well as congratulate government for the progress made in responding to the HIV/Aids pandemic.

A UNAIDS statement issued on Tuesday said the UNAIDS global champion for the 90-90-90 treatment targets, Marc Angel will be accompanied by UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Sheila Tlou and Badara Samb, the director of the Special Initiative Unit of UNAIDS in Lesotho.

Mr Angel is also chairperson of the Committee for Foreign and European Affairs for Cooperation and Development and for Immigration of the Luxembourg Parliament

The ambitious 90-90-90 treatment targets seek to end the Aids pandemic by ensuring that by the year 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.

The targets further seek to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy while 90 percent of all people receiving ARV therapy will have viral suppression.

“The mission intends to personally congratulate the Lesotho Government for the progress made in the AIDS response and to meet with key stakeholders from Government, civil society, international partners, and people living with HIV,” reads part of the statement on the UNAIDS visit.

The statement further said the trio will also capture highlights of the HIV response in order to showcase and demonstrate to Luxembourg the importance of investing in human resources for health strategies to meet the 90-90-90 targets.

The mission will further document best practices and encourage knowledge sharing related to 90-90-90 with a particular focus on human resources for health and community health workers and advocate for the  Track Approach to reach 90-90-90 targets and end AIDS in Lesotho by 2030.

“The Fast Track Ambassador will have a field visit to Roma (St Joseph Hospital and neighbouring community) where good progress with Test & Treat, differentiated models of care; multi month dispensing and Community Adherence Groups (CAGs) will be showcased on Friday.

“UNAIDS continues to provide technical support in strengthening advocacy for the Fast Track targets, social and community mobilisation, provision of strategic guidance, as well as civil society organisations (CSO) strengthening, among others, in Lesotho,” the statement further reveals.

The Lesotho government launched the Test and Treat therapy in 2016, becoming one of the first countries to embark on this crucial journey of ending the epidemic by 2030.

Health Minister ‘Molotsi Monyamane told the Lesotho Times that Lesotho had tested 752 000 people since the introduction of the Test and Treat campaign and this translated to an 85 percent testing success.

Dr Monyamane said this meant that Lesotho had exceeded its initial 50 percent target.

“Following this success, we have now been given a new target of 91 percent which comes with US$80 million funding; US$78 million more than the initial Test and Treat funding,” Dr Monyamane said.

“Since the launch of the test and treat campaign, we have also managed to put 50 percent of children living with HIV on treatment. Prior to this, only 15 percent of children living with the virus were on treatment.”

He said putting people on treatment immediately after testing positive had helped save lives as people living with HIV and Aids were initially turned away and only put on treatment after their CD4 count had drastically dropped to below 200.

Dr Monyamane said this resulted in many people being brought to healthcare facilities when they were bedridden.

“We are currently giving people adhering to the treatment three months treatment for the locals and six months for those working in South Africa.

“This means that people stay on treatment for a minimum of three months and are not forced to travel to healthcare facilities every month to collect tablets,” he said.

Based on these successes, Dr Monyamane said Lesotho had been invited to the World Health Assembly scheduled for May 22-26 in Geneva, Switzerland to share its success story with the world.

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