UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Professor Sheila Tlou, has commended the government for the strides it has made in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The Botswana national is in the country from 10 – 16 February 2016 to engage the government and other stakeholders on the actions being taken to improve the HIV/AIDS response among other objectives.
Addressing members of the media in Maseru this past week, Prof Tlou said Lesotho was making progress in arresting HIV/AIDS despite being ranked second in the world with a 23 percent prevalence rate behind Swaziland which has 26 percent.
“I came to meet with various government officials to congratulate them on the progress that has been made in the HIV/AIDS response,” she said.
“Lesotho might be number two on the HIV prevalence ranking, but there are some positive strides that have been made towards ending the pandemic by 2030.”
Prof Tlou lauded the government for re-launching the National Aids Commission (NAC) last December after it was disbanded in 2011. The NAC’s mandate is to develop and coordinate strategies for controlling and combating HIV/AIDS.
“Now that the NAC is up and running, we will continue to offer them support both at regional and national level to ensure that each and every Mosotho has access to its services,” she said.
“We can actually see that Lesotho has moved from one point to another. I met NAC members and they are very strong people whom I know will be able to work well with the parliamentary committee and cabinet to ensure that all programmes lead towards the fast-tracking of the HIV/AIDS response and to achieving the 90-90-90 targets.”
Under the treatment target, 90 percent of all people living with HIV would know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV would receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy would have viral suppression by 2020.
She said Lesotho was also adopting the test-and-treat method which ensures that people are put on treatment should they test HIV positive.
“You know you are making real progress when you put more people on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs thereby reducing fatalities,” Prof Tlou said.
“Right now, for example, Botswana is no longer number one or two in HIV prevalence because more people have been put on ARVs and people are no longer dying.”
She said Lesotho should work to reduce the HIV incidence rate. “Incidence is the number of people that are getting infected every day. South Africa has 4 000 new infections every week, while Lesotho has 110 a week,” said Prof Tlou.
“The rate of mother-to-child transmissions was more than 30 percent, but now is 13 percent. This has gone down because more women, 70 percent, are accessing services. We have over 35 percent of HIV patients on ARVs and 35 percent of children accessing services and that is a lot of progress.”
On behalf of government, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing said the seven-party coalition made the fight against HIV/AIDS a priority, resulting in the resuscitation of the NAC.
“We are very happy with the assistance that we are getting from UNAIDS and the UN family,” he said.
“Let me promise you that from now onwards, those targets set out for ending the pandemic by 2020 would be reached in Lesotho.”
“I am aware that the budget estimates for combating HIV/AIDS this year are quite substantial. The money will be invested in buying drugs, and this shows the level of commitment that we as the government have towards reaching these targets.”
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