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LePHIA roll sleeves on AIDS suppression


Mohloai Mpesi

Lesotho has launched the second phase of the Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) whose results would be disseminated in December next year.

The project according to the Health Ministry is meant to help the country fight the Aids pandemic.

The launch of the second phase which was held at the Ministry of Health premises on Wednesday follows the 2016/17 survey which has indicated that 81% of Basotho know their status.

The project which was officially launched by Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso who is also championing the survey, is aimed at helping Lesotho meet the United Nations 90:90:90 target.

The UN 90:90:90 is a pact between the United Nations countries which has pledged that by the end of 2020, their countries will have 90% of their people knowing their HIV status, of the 90% that know their status to be enrolled on treatment and have 90% of the patients virally suppressed, thus making Lesotho an HIV free country.

Her Majesty indicated that quality services have to be provided for all communities.

She applauded the inaugural phase of the survey citing that the statistics provide counsel of where to enhance efforts in order to prevent HIV.

“As we near HIV epidemic control, particular focus needs to be placed on the quality of HIV services provision in our communities.

“The LePHIA phase one survey which was conducted between 2016 and 17 shed light on the significant progress made in the HIV response. Progress is truly commendable.

“LePHIA phase one also revealed a high HIV prevalence of 25.6% (one in four Basotho are HIV positive), with an HIV incidence of 10,000 new annual infections. It was also reported that women are disproportionately affected with higher HIV incidence and prevalence rates compared to their male counterparts,” she said adding that adolescent girls and young women had fifteen times (15x) higher incidence than their male counterparts.

“Young people between the ages 15-24 years had low levels of comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge with only 1 in three young people displaying comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge. These statistics make it evident that collectively, we need to increase our efforts toward HIV prevention. It is also evident that there is a need to intensify our HIV programming efforts towards our future mothers; that is adolescent girls and young women,” her Majesty stressed.

Meanwhile, the United States of America Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales stated that in the LePHIA’s first survey, they learned that 88% of infected people who were on treatment were virally suppressed.

“LePHIA will give us information on HIV incidence and prevalence, which will provide a critical reference point from which to measure Lesotho’s progress towards the UN 90:90:90 targets since the 2016-17 survey. In that survey we found that 81% of people had tested for HIV and know their results, 92% of people who know their status were on treatment and 88% of people on treatment were virally suppressed,” Gonzales said.

“We are asking Basotho to be aware of their risk, know their status, and learn about prevention. We want Basotho to be honest with their partners, families, and health care workers so that we can target HIV testing services to those most at risk especially men and youth. We want Basotho to be accountable and adhere to treatment, because in doing so, they can reduce the risk of transmitting to partners. Remember, U=U! Undetectable equals transmittable,” she said adding that the United Stated has injected more than M6m in the initiative.

She indicated that the United States through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has provided more than six million Maloti to this critical effort.

“We remain committed to this as we focus intensively on increasing the number of Basotho who know their HIV status and expanding the number of people on life-saving treatment.”

Gonzales said the data which is going to be collected is important to navigate them to where they can make the greatest impact.

“To make sure our efforts are successful, we need high-quality, reliable data. Data gives us information and directs our efforts to where we can make the greatest impact. But we never forget that behind that data points, there are real people, real individuals who are important to their families, communities and country. This data helps us save lives,” she said.

Ministry of Health’s Deputy Minister, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, remarked that the first survey took a giant step to achieving the 90:90:90 target.

“Despite the evident hardship inflicted on our societies by this HIV epidemic, the LePHIA phase 1 conducted in 2017 revealed that Lesotho has made significant progress towards achieving the global 90,90,90 HIV targets by 2020.

“I genuinely believe this LePHIA 2020 will collect HIV information that will prove to our communities and the world at large that, indeed Lesotho has achieved the 90-90-90 HIV targets,” the deputy minister said adding that she has braced herself and eagerly looked forward to World AIDS day next year December when the LePHIA 2020 results would be announced.

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