• 15 December, 2018

World AIDS Day was commemorated on December 14 in Maseru by launching of the next five-year National HIV and AIDS Strategy (NHASP) 2018-2023 by Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki.

The commemoration was attended by various dignitaries comprising ministers and development partners of Lesotho also observed a candle-lit moment of silence in remembrance of all who succumbed to the pandemic.
Key-noting the commemoration, Moleleki highlighted that the strategic goals of the new plan are reduced AIDS related deaths by 50 percent by 2023, Mother to child transmission elimination by 2023 and reduced new HIV infections by 50 percent by 2023. He added that this recommits Lesotho to reduce new infections from 13, 000 in 2017 by 50 percent and added that in order to achieve this, she needs to ensure that populations at a high risk of infection have access to combination prevention.
“Let us ensure that we implement behavioural, biomedical and structural prevention programmes so that we do not act when it is too late,” he cautioned asserting that the Government has reviewed the national NHASP 2011/12-2015/16 which was extended to 2017/18 while it also developed the new strategy for the next five years that was launched on the same day.
Moleleki indicated that the Plan was consultatively developed to guide Lesotho towards epidemic control by 2020 and elimination by 2030 and the development of the strategy which he said was informed by several concurrent strategy renewal processes including the National Development Strategic Plan (NDSP) and Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP). He explicated that the situation analysis was informed by extensive studies and assessments such as the Comprehensive HIV epidemiological analysis of Lesotho, Joint Review of HIV/Tuberculosis and Hepatitis Programmes among others for delivering effective HIV prevention.
While he on this note appreciated that the Government has developed the HIV Prevention 2020 Roadmap with clear strategies that will assist to halt the transmission of HIV, he said the HIV prevention must be strengthened around central pillars including the combination prevention including comprehensive sexuality education, economic empowerment and access to sexual and reproductive health services for young women and adolescent girls and their male partners in high-prevalence locations.
At the same event the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator Salvator Niyonzima noted that 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS Day (WAD) commemoration saying the day is an important moment for all those who have role in the response to HIV and AIDS, look back, and take stock of collective achievements whilst it also serves to remember those lost in the fight against AIDS.
“More importantly on World AIDS Day, we come together, we recommit and re-energize and renew our collective determination for this epidemic,” asserted Niyonzima highlighting that in 1988 when the first WAD was observed, great strides have been made as today millions of people living with HIV are on treatment.
In the same vein the United States (US) Ambassador to Lesotho, Ms Rebecca Gonzales lamented that she thought the day would not be marked following postponments that it faced and yet she however revealed that President Donald Trump on Thursday signed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) extension Act of 2018 which she said extends provisions of the US leadership against HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria 2003 for an additional five years.
She disclosed that 15 years ago when PEPFAR was enacted, less than 50, 000 individuals were on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, and added that since that time, they have come a long way together because it is a true partnership between the government of Lesotho, implementing partners, Basotho communities and civil society. She thus said they have together progressed to where close to 220, 000 men, women, and children in Lesotho alone are now on treatment.
“PEPFAR has committed more than $80 billion to the global fight against HIV and AIDS over the past 15 years,” asserted the US Ambassador noting that a total amounting to over M6 billion has been committed to Lesotho alone to date and including over M1 billion this year alone. She said the current PEPFAR program remains committed to scaling up Lesotho’s antiretroviral treatment (ART) coverage to reach 95 percent nationally, rolling out self-testing, and expanding more efficient and effective testing strategies and treatment modalities, especially for adolescents and men, which she said includes dedicated men’s clinics and adolescent corners.
At the same event speaking on behalf of the National AIDS Commission (NAC)’s Chairperson, ’Maseabata Ramathebane said the “Know Your Status” theme is meant to facilitate protection that gives each one including the marginalised, destitute, key populations an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health services. She said they are as a country very proud about significant progress made in HIV response since 1986 when the first AIDS case was discovered in Lesotho.
The Board president of Lesotho Network for people Living With HIV and AIDS (LENEPWHA), Mochai Mochai appealed for the NAC to take the commemoration to the people in the communities to reinforce awareness and as well as that preparations should start as soon as the start of the beginning of the year.
Mochai also lamented that people living with HIV are perturbed by new infections which are currently rife, and the situation which he alleged as indicative of the mischief displayed by the youth because they are the ones presenting with highest infections.
Lena

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger