SENTEBALE in partnership with the National AIDS Commission and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), held the first Lesotho Youth AIDS Conference at ‘Mamohato Children’s Centre in Thaba-Bosiu.
The conference, which was held last Tuesday, was conceived as a platform for youth to engage in open dialogue with decision makers to prioritise the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Speaking to the Sunday Express on Friday, Sentebale’s Communications Coordinator Mr Khosana Thamae said they were part of the workshop to provide counselling and support to youth on HIV/AIDS.
Mr Thamae said another objective of the conference was to get feedback from 12 young people who attended the 21st International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Durban from 18 to 22 July 2016.
“The conference was led by twelve youths who represented Lesotho in Durban as it’s known that HIV remains the number one cause of death amongst adolescents in Africa,” Mr Thamae said.
“In Lesotho, UNAIDS reports that HIV is twice more prevalent among young women than young men and only 38.9 percent of young women and 28.7 percent of young men have comprehensive knowledge of HIV. Stigma and discrimination continue to push young people into the shadows, preventing them from accessing life-saving services,” Mr Thamae said.
He also made reference to the 2014 Lesotho Demographic Health Survey (LDHS), saying that it highlighted that there were still challenges in getting young people ranging from 15 to 19 years to access HIV services.
“The report showed that in 2013, only 40 percent of females and 25 percent males tested for HIV and only 33 percent of adolescent boys were reported to be medically-circumcised. Additionally, the report shows very low Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) coverage among children and adolescents,” Mr Thamae said.
He said the founding patrons of Sentebale – Prince Harry, Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso and Sir Elton John addressed a lunchtime session of the IAC in Durban titled “Ending AIDS with the Voices of Youth”, along with a group of young panellists from around the world. They discussed how young people have been left behind in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Mr Thamae said the young speakers told the audience the best means of support was to give them a platform to be heard as well as involving them in policymaking.
“It is against this background that the youth conference on Tuesday was held to provide feedback on lessons learnt in Durban and to sensitise and mobilise political, religious and traditional leadership towards renewing their commitment to addressing and working with young people in the AIDS response,” he said.
“Some of the youth pointed out issues that they felt needed to be considered here. They said they are still afraid to be seen at clinics getting treatment because they are stigmatised.”
“Some said the problem wasn’t about taking medication daily but rather the size of the pill is just too big and they wished it could be smaller for it to be easier to swallow,” he added.