THE Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENEPWHA) has embarked on a drive to improve linkages between people taking antiretroviral treatment with health centres in Leribe and Berea to stem the HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the districts.
LENEPWHA is a non-profit association established in 2005 to address the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. Among its objectives is ensuring that people living with the virus enjoy equal rights, opportunities and societal responsibilities as well as being protected from stigma and discrimination.
Under the project, which began in March, support groups for people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the villages assist group members to remain up to date with their antiretroviral treatment to minimise the virus developing into full blown AIDS.
LENEPWHA’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Mampeke Mokela, told the Lesotho Times the project is meant to monitor the progress, or lack thereof, of support group members through timely check-ups and keeping track of the transfer of patients to other health centres.
“To ensure that the project is a success, we have formed support groups for PLHIV in the villages within the districts, in which the leaders help link the group members to the nearby health centres to access all services needed to contain the virus,” said Ms Mokela.
“The main reason we started the project was to engender willingness among the people to access HIV services by getting tested early. It enables us to ensure that those who are infected take their medication, access health services and are retained in our programme.”
The project, she further noted, also seeks to conscientise PLHIV of the need to stay the course on their antiretroviral treatment to avoid spiralling into full blown AIDS and getting exposed to other opportunistic infections.
“There is a huge risk of PLHIV defaulting on their antiretroviral treatment which then impacts negatively on communities. This is because some of them end up infecting and re-infecting their partners by not disclosing their status,” Ms Mokela said.
Asked why their project zeroed in on Leribe and Berea, Ms Mokela said it was because of the high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the two districts.
She said that in 2012, 27 618 people were infected with the virus in Lesotho, while 17 272 people succumbed to AIDS. The high prevalence and mortality, Ms Mokela said, was mostly caused by people in denial about their HIV positive status and continuing with their carefree lifestyle.
“The mindset or behaviour of such people is not that of people who have accepted that they are living with the virus, since they continue with the lifestyle which brought about the infection,” she said.
“This type of behaviour is one of the contributing factors for Lesotho becoming number two in the world in HIV prevalence at 23 percent.”