Lesotho’s Steady Progress in the Fight to Save Lives
I have just returned from the Kingdom of Lesotho, a country entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa; a country that’s about the size of Maryland, but has a strong reputation for providing important lessons in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Home to the highest mountain peak south of Mount Kilimanjaro, and famed as “the Kingdom in the sky,” the Kingdom of Lesotho continues to fight HIV, a disease that affects a fifth of the population.
While in Lesotho, I witnessed the launch of the country’s first national cervical cancer center at Senkatana clinic, built to help control Lesotho’s leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Basotho women.
Only three years ago, the Kingdom – with the support of partners such as PEPFAR and USAID – embarked on an ambitious program to ensure services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) were provided in all public health facilities. Today, these important services are provided as part of a suite of maternal child health services in all public health facilities.
Now, Lesotho has embarked on a journey to protect women from one of the most preventable and treatable cancers – cervical cancer, which preys upon many women in developing countries, especially those living with HIV.
The rates of cervical cancer in Lesotho are among the highest in the world as HIV positive women are four to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer than HIV-negative women.
Over time, we have learned that success in the fight against HIV requires political will and leadership in addition to resources. Through the leadership of Dr. Pinkie Manamolela, Lesotho’s health minister, and Lefu Manyokole, Lesotho Health Ministry’s permanent secretary, Lesotho has demonstrated leadership in its commitment to fight HIV and its associated diseases.
Senkatana is now set to become a national center of excellence for HIV care, tuberculosis, and reproductive health.
Seeing first-hand the progress Lesotho has made in less than three years reminds me of a statement I recently read – the greatest achievement is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.
We are proud to be a valuable partner in the Kingdom’s efforts to obliterate AIDS and join the movement to create a new generation free of HIV.
To learn more about our work in Lesotho, click here.
Charles Lyons is President and CEO of the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.