US Govt leads the way in fighting HIV

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Herbert Moyo

MORE than three million HIV tests have been conducted in Lesotho in the last 10 years and 200 000 people have received treatment for HIV and AIDS in the same period through the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme.

This was said by the US Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, at the recent 242nd US independence commemorations in Maseru.

“The US government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is proud to partner with the people and government of Lesotho in accelerating Lesotho’s progress towards achieving HIV and AIDS epidemic control,” Ms Gonzales said.

“Through PEPFAR’s 10 years of partnership with Lesotho, the United States has invested over M4 billion in the fight against HIV/AIDS. What that means in real terms is that we provided 3,4 million HIV tests to Basotho, treatment for nearly 200 000 people living with HIV and AIDS, voluntary medical male circumcision for close to 177 000 men and medicine for 78 000 pregnant women to ensure they do not pass the infection to their babies.

“This is a massive effort and we are truly proud of our collaboration with the government of Lesotho, specifically the Ministry of Health and our implementing partners.  As we look ahead to the next financial year, we are committed to saving lives through PEPFAR. We however, need your commitment to accountability, efficiency and impact,” Ms Gonzales added.

HIV and AIDS was first discovered in 1981 and Lesotho, which reported its first HIV case five years later, has the second highest HIV and AIDS prevalence rates in the world after eSwatini. The HIV and AIDS prevalence in Lesotho is 25 percent of the population.

Lesotho has, with the support of PEPFAR, made huge strides in addressing the scourge of HIV and Aids with a recent study revealing that 90,2 percent of people living with HIV were now on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

This figure surpasses the second of three ambitious 90-90-90 treatment targets seeking to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020.

The first 90 target seeks to ensure that by the year 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV know their status. The second target seeks to ensure that 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. The third target is to ensure that 90 percent of all people receiving ARVs will have viral suppression by 2020.

Lesotho embarked on different campaigns as part of efforts to ensure that the set targets are met by 2020, including the Know Your Status, Prevention of Mother to Child (PMTC) and Test and Treat campaigns.

The country subsequently embarked on the Lesotho Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) to measure the impact of these campaigns. The study revealed that Lesotho has made commendable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS and surpassed the second of the 90-90-90 treatment targets.

LePHIA is a nationally representative study led by the government through the Ministry of Health. It gets funding and technical support from the US government through PEPFAR, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ICAP at Colombia University.

The LePHIA project consists of household population surveys to collect information related to HIV in approximately 15 countries and in Lesotho, the survey involved 10 000 households and 15 000 participants.

Last September, Ms Gonzales’ predecessor, Matthew Harrington, said the US government, through PEPFAR, would continue to “commit substantial resources and work hand-in-hand with government of Lesotho, implementing partners and civil society to help Lesotho achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals”.

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