Stopping AIDS, Keeping the Promise in Lesotho
December 7, 2010
Lesotho has third-highest adult HIV prevalence rate in the world – with more than 1 in 4 individuals infected with the virus. More than 15,000 babies each year—nearly one-third of all total births—are born to HIV-positive women. In the absence of any intervention to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies, this translates to 6,094 new infections annually.
The Foundation’s programs in Lesotho
are structured to decrease the number of infections among women and children. On December 1, 2010, the Foundation's Lesotho team joined with the rest of the world to commemorate World AIDS Day (WAD) which took place in Maseru District, at Christ the King football grounds in Roma.
A crowd gathers at Christ the King Park, the venue for World AIDS Day events.
The Theme was Universal Access and Human Rights, and the slogan: Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise.
Prior to the national event, Maseru District Health Team, together with the Foundation, were involved in two week-long pre-WAD activities in a bid to create more awareness about HIV/AIDS, focusing on influencing behavior change among youth. Services provided included HIV and AIDS education, HIV testing, and blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring.
The National World AIDS day celebration in Lesotho was observed by a number of Government dignitaries, notably among them His Majesty the King Lestsie III and Queen ‘Masenate, Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohola, and the Minister of Health and Social Welfare. The U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho also attended.
The activities were kick-started with a march led by His Majesty to one of the child-headed households in Lesotho.
The National World AIDS Day event was 30 minutes away from Lesotho’s capital city, Maseru, where the Foundation’s office is located. The Foundation team arrived as early as 7:30 am, working together with the PEPFAR team to set up a tent.
Foundation and PEPFAR staff manning the booth during World AIDS Day.
HIV counseling and testing at Lesotho's World AIDS Day events.
Partnering with PEPFAR
for this event contributed to a sense of in-country stewardship, partnership, and coordination—especially for such an important annual event that is celebrated globally.
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare was present at the event and highlighted the importance of programs to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to baby. The minister noted the coverage of PMTCT programmes has increased and to this effect, Lesotho continues to strengthen efforts towards ensuring universal access to PMTCT services. She further thanked Riders for Health
in expediting transportation of specimens and results to and from health facilities. She thanked health professionals and other health service providers for their commitment and good work.
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare speaks to the crowd on World AIDS Day.
In his keynote address, His Majesty the King said that Lesotho has fought against HIV/AIDS for many years. And although the country has used different approaches and spent a lot of money, there has been little or no change in the rate of infection. He pointed out that majority of the people are still reluctant to be tested for HIV, but knowing their status would help HIV-infected individuals to access care and treatment services as soon as possible. In some more promising news, the country has been able to perform best in the fight against HIV/AIDS in PMTCT, one of the three pillars on which Lesotho is focusing.
As a nation, Lesotho identified three main areas in the fight against HIV/AIDS: prevention of mother-to child transmission, knowing your status (a program encouraging HIV counselling and testing), and accessing and promoting good health services. His Majesty called upon everybody to consider this year’s theme “Universal Access and Human Rights” which will enable patients to freely access health services.
He further emphasized indiscriminate universal rights to care and treatment, social support, prevention, and the right to appropriate HIV/AIDS care and treatment for all, irrespective of age, gender, race and geographical location. He concluded by saying it was everybody’s responsibility to contribute to reducing the rate of HIV infection and provide support to orphans and vulnerable children.
Tony Isavwa is the Performance Improvement and Health Systems Strengthening Director (and honorary member of the Public Policy, Communications, and Advocacy team) for the Foundation, based in Maseru, Lesotho.