World AIDS Day at Limkokwing University in Lesotho
Makopano Letsatsi, EGPAF-Lesotho
Adolescent Care & Treatment; General; Point-of-Care Early Infant Diagnosis; Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission
To commemorate World AIDS Day, Limkokwing University held a ceremony at the university campus in Maseru, Lesotho on November 29, 2018. This year’s World AIDS Day theme was ‘Know Your Status’.
Various stakeholders working with the Ministry of Health presented about the HIV services they provided, particularly to young people in tertiary institutions.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, through funding and support by PEPFAR, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, National AIDS Commission (NAC), Council of Higher Education (CHE) and the tertiary institutions, made the decision to introduce youth-friendly clinics to provide HIV services on campus, mainly for students.
Youth-friendly clinics provide HIV services through outreach services provided by nurses and counselors.
This is accomplished through outreach services provided by EGPAF nurses and counselors at the clinics. Services provided on campus clinics include HIV testing services, ART, STI and TB screening, treatment, and referrals. Other services are Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services; including cancer screening, nutrition assessments, counseling and support, and prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT). Youth who test negative are linked to appropriate prevention strategies, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), as well as psychosocial support including ART adherence support and limited primary health care services, are also part of the package.
Speaking at the World AIDS Day event, the Hon. Deputy Minister of Health, Mrs. ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, thanked the partners for joining hands in the fight against HIV. She encouraged young people, especially students, to utilize the campus clinic or the adolescent and youth-friendly services at Queen Elizabeth II hospital, which is provided by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with EGPAF with the support of PEPFAR.
The Deputy Minister also delivered a speech on behalf of the First Lady, conveying the Free to Shine campaign’s message to the youth. She said youth are at the center of the Free to Shine campaign. The campaign’s aim is to ensure babies are born free from HIV. She encouraged them to know their status, stop early marriages, and advised pregnant women to visit the antenatal clinic regularly. She also emphasized the need for those who have newborns to take their babies to the clinic for vaccinations and HIV testing in order to get early infant diagnosis done for HIV exposed babies.
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission saved my baby.
During the event, an HIV positive mother shared her testimony with the audience; Mrs. ‘Malijo Baji said that she discovered her HIV status in 1999. At that time ARVs were too expensive and she could not even afford the cost per month which was higher than her salary. Her employer volunteered to pay for her monthly medication. She thanked her family and friends for supporting and accepting her status despite the stigma and discrimination that prevailed against HIV. This helped ‘Malijo later to disclose her status publicly and continue to live openly with HIV. Today, she works with an NGO encouraging people to prevent new HIV transmissions by educating them about prevention options available in Lesotho.
She also introduced her 11-year old daughter, who was born free from HIV because of prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT). “PMTCT saved my baby,” she said. Her daughter is now her treatment supporter who is always reminding her mother to take her medication.
Throughout the World AIDS Day commemoration activities, EGPAF was also providing free HIV testing services. A number of students were seen at the queue waiting to know their HIV status.
Among partners who attended the World AIDS Day were; LENASO, LPPA, JHPIEGO, Ministry of Health, EGPAF, Baylor College of Medicine Foundation, and the Office of the First Lady. Other participants included staff and students.
World AIDS Day is commemorated at Limkokwing University annually. The campus clinic was officially opened on World AIDS Day in 2017.