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UNAIDS lauds govt’s HIV fight

 

 . . . says still a lot more to be done

Pascalinah Kabi

A HIGH-POWERED delegation of the United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS) says there is still a lot to be done in order to achieve the ambitious 90-90-90 targets by 2020 and ensure that the world is free of HIV and Aids by 2030.

The ambitious 90-90-90 treatment targets seek to end the Aids pandemic by ensuring that by the year 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.

The targets further seek to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy while 90 percent of all people receiving ARV therapy will have viral suppression.

Last week, a UNAIDS delegation visited Lesotho to “capture highlights of the country’s HIV response” as well as congratulate government for the progress made in responding to the HIV/Aids pandemic.

The delegation was made up of the UNAIDS global champion for the 90-90-90 treatment targets Marc Angel, UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Sheila Tlou and Badara Samb, the director of the Special Initiative Unit of UNAIDS in Lesotho.

Addressing the media after their two-day visit, Dr Samb said the world was currently sitting at 60-77-81 statistics as countries moved towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets by 2020.

“Lesotho is currently standing at 65-54-58 at the national level and there are disparities at district level. If you look at these statistics there is one thing striking for both the global and national statistics,” Dr Samb said.

“The first 90 for both Lesotho and the world is not looking good. There is a lot of work that needs to be done for us to be able to achieve the 90-90-90 targets come 2020.”

He said that it was worrying that Lesotho’s second 90 target was below average, signaling that people were not linked to treatment immediately after testing positive.

Dr Samb said something needed to be done urgently to ensure that all persons who tested positive were put on treatment immediately.

He said that Lesotho and the rest of the world had the opportunity to achieve the 2020 targets and end Aids as a public health issue by 2030.

“We need to work hard to ensure that Aids is a thing of the past come 2030 but if we carry on as business as usual, we will carry Aids as a public health issue for generations to come.”

For his part, Mr Angel said he was happy with efforts Lesotho had undertaken towards the 90-90-90 targets.

He said the 90-90-90 targets were an HIV/ Aids prevention method which would ensure the country ends the pandemic by 2030.

“This is a prevention method as well because one cannot transmit the virus when it’s suppressed. There are big efforts being made in this country to achieve these targets,” Mr Angel said.

He said that one of the efforts being made, that impressed him, was that the country had managed to put 74 percent of children living with the virus on treatment.

He said as the first country to launch the Test and Treat campaign, Lesotho was bound to achieve the 90-90-90 targets come 2030.

“We had a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and I was happy to learn that he is chairing a cabinet committee on health, made up of nine different ministries.

“This shows that the government of Lesotho appreciates that Ministry of Health alone cannot do everything.

“Other ministries have a role to play in ending the pandemic, so do civil society organisations and development partners. I was also happy to learn that the initiative is being taken to the streets where people are tested and treated,” he said.

He said taking services to the people helped combat stigma; adding that services in the malls and other public places were needed in a country with a high prevalence rate like Lesotho.

At 25 percent, Lesotho’s prevalence rate is the second highest in the world after Swaziland.

For her part, professor Tlou said young women, especially girls, were continued to be the face of HIV while men were the face of Aids-related deaths.

“We therefore need solid human resources from the community level to the highest in order for us to achieve these targets,” Professor Tlou said.

The former Botswana Health Minister said the world needed 2 million village health workers (VHW) to achieve these targets, adding that the VHW were key to ensuring that African countries achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

 

 

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