MASERU – Boshepha Ranthithi from the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and Aids (LENEPHWA) has said having achieved the 90-90-90 target, is an indication that people living with HIV have been adhering to their treatment. On behalf of civil society organisations, he said the results can be maintained and further improved to reduce sigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.
Lesotho Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) 2020, is a household-based national survey that was conducted between December 2019 and March 2020 to measure the status of Lesotho’s national HIV response. The report showed that Lesotho achieved an impressive result of 90-97-92. According to Minister of Health Semano Sekatle, new infections have declined by 55 percent among adults 15 years and older.
He said HIV prevalence has also declined from 25.6 percent in 2017 to 22.7 percent in 2020, by three percent in three years, and viral load suppression among adults has increase from 73.1 percent in 2017 to 81 percent in 2020, by eight percent. Despite the huge achievement, Sekatle said there is still a lot to be done, like prevention of mother to child transmission which is below target. He said it lingers around eight to 10 percent, noting that his view is that the infection of even one child is one to many.
National AIDS Commission (NAC) chief executive Lebohang Mothae said although now that the possibility of reaching the 95:95:95 targets is high and the country is reaching epidemic control, it is of utmost importance for the response to focus more on HIV prevention. She said there is a need to scale up prevention interventions for all target populations, especially adolescents and young adults. Also, provision of a combination of prevention interventions and services to all populations is imperative.
While medical interventions have yielded the country such sterling results, Mothae said non-biomedical interventions are similarly required to ending AIDS as a public health threat. “Let us ramp up our efforts to empower Basotho women, adolescents and young adults, prevent GBV, end stigma and discrimination, and review our policy and legal framework to protect and promote the rights of the people living with HIV/AIDS and reach out to those vulnerable populations, including those in the hard-to-reach places of this country.
“We cannot do it right without the communities. Let us put them at the centre of the response, that is, policy and strategy making to inform interventions and services and enable feedback thereon to complement granular data on each service provided to them. Meaningful engagement and rigorous community systems strengthening will be key in this regard,” she said. She also highlighted that the health sector has done its bit and what remains to be achieved, the gaps that need to be addressed and opportunities that can be realised, depend on multi-sectoral response and, as a country, there is need to be intentional about improving collaborative efforts towards ending AIDS.
In her remarks Ambassador Maria Brewer said she is looking forward to hearing the additional markers of success that the minister of health has made. “I am proud to witness firsthand the achievements of our ongoing work in the health sector, saving thousands of lives, significantly lowering the burden of HIV in Lesotho, and reducing the future costs for the response to this epidemic,” Ambassador Brewer said.
The good performance illustrated by LePHIA comes with more responsibilities for Lesotho. Having HIV as a cross-cutting development agenda in the country will enable even allocation and distribution of resources to where they are mostly needed. The launch illustrated that all have made remarkable gains, all remain energised as they work towards the next milestone, maintaining a sustainable national HIV programme in Lesotho and reaching the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2025.