MASERU – The Ministries of Local Government, Chieftainship, Home Affairs, and Police, together with the Ministry of Health, have pledged their support in the fight against HIV/AIDS by ensuring that they allow communities to lead in line with this year’s theme: Let communities lead.
HIV coordinator and focal person from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship, Malefetsane Nkhabu, says at the decentralised level, they have Principal Chiefs, District Administrators (DAs), Council Secretaries, and Community Council Secretaries, who can all play an important role in the management of the HIV/AIDS response.
Speaking at the community systems strengthening dialogue on Tuesday this week, Nkhabu said these groups are actually at the forefront of the HIV response.
To that end, the ministry is considering working with them in the fight against the pandemic.
Nkhabu noted that the DAs are already leading the response to HIV/AIDS issues, with district AIDS committees, and that Mokhotlong district’s committee is much more active than other districts.
With this kind of leadership, he said they commit to ensuring that district AIDS committees are brought back to functioning with normal, formal, and official co-ordination and support, especially in resource mobilisation, to make sure that they are empowered.
He said they also want to maximise the utilisation of the chieftainship.
“Their engagement during COVID-19 vaccinations was impactful and would go a long way with the HIV/AIDS response,” he said, adding that they will strategise on how they engage principal chiefs to lead in the response.
“We commit to bringing together the high level of structures of the ministries, where we will look into how we engage the home affairs ministry, ensuring social contracting of service providers, looking at social issues and other factors related to the response that will enable effective and meaningful engagement of the communities.
“We also commit to strategising on how we get them into National AIDS Commission coordination and strengthen existing work within the policy,” Nkhabu explained.
In their plan, they intend to motivate issues of HIV/AIDS, advocate for the provision of local funds, and ensure that issues of capacity building and refresher orientations are brought back while focusing on those who are at the forefront of the response.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, ’Mamoliehi Ntene, said her ministry’s priority is to strengthen primary health care.
She said from the integrated health services which they run throughout the country, they have noticed that data shows high numbers of new infections among young people. On top of that, Ntene said they have identified other diseases that complicate and lead to the high numbers of HIV, which are TB and cancer.
As a result, she said they have advised engaging the chiefs because they are aware that they cannot fight HIV/AIDS without their input. She further pledged to work collaboratively with the ministry’s partners to reduce HIV/AIDS numbers.
“Without our local chiefs and village health workers, we cannot fight HIV/AIDS and we cannot reach the communities down there without their involvement; therefore, we aim to reach our target by 2030,” Ntene said. She believes that communities’ leadership roles need to be appreciated in all HIV plans and programmes, including in their formulation, budgeting, implementation, and evaluation.