LESOTHO has taken further steps towards controlling the HIV epidemic. This amid revelations that the HIV prevalence has significantly declined from 25, 6 percent to 22, 7 percent in 2020.
This is according to the results of the 2020 Lesotho Population- based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) survey announced yesterday by the Ministry of Health.
The LePHIA survey was supported by the United States of America through the US President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), ICAP at Columbia University (ICAP) and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There was also significant reduction of new infections by 55 percent as the country also surpassed exceeded the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets set for last year.
In terms of the 90-90-90 targets, the aim was that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral drugs and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral load suppression.
According to the survey results, Lesotho met the first 90 percent target, scored 97 percent on the second target and achieved 92 percent on the third target.
Speaking at the LePHIA results dissemination webinar yesterday, Health Minister Semano Sekatle said although the country had registered tremendous strides towards controlling the pandemic, they were still worried by the disproportionately higher HIV prevalence among women. The findings indicate that HIV prevalence among women is at 27, 4 percent compared to 17, 8 percent for men.
“This higher HIV prevalence among women continues to be a great concern for the country,” Mr Sekatle said.
“It is also a major problem for the country as it demonstrates that men may not be utilising or accessing health services well. This needs to be addressed.
“On the positive side, more people living with HIV are adhering to their treatment and as a result, viral suppression rates have commendably increased.”
Mr Sekatle said the continuing support from development partners had given them the confidence that the country will achieve its goal of attaining the 95-95-95 targets by 2023.
“Our efforts with the support of the development partners give us confidence that Lesotho will achieve its National HIV strategic plan targets of 95-95-95 by 2023 and also eliminate AIDS by 2030. I am confident that an AIDS-free generation is possible.
“We must however continue to scale up interventions that are directed toward HIV prevention, diagnosis and lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART). In addition, more work needs to be done to eliminate inequalities, stigma and discrimination within our society.
“On behalf of the people and government of Lesotho, I wish to extend our gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to achieve these impressive results including people living with HIV and AIDS,” Mr Sekatle said.
On her part, the US Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, said they had successfully conducted the HIV impact assessment despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic which had severely strained the country’s health system.
“Despite the significant challenges over the past year, we forged ahead together.
“I am most proud of the fact that LePHIA 2020 continues to demonstrate the incredible power of what can be accomplished through strong collaboration between our two nations.
“Today, each one of you should be extremely proud of what Lesotho has achieved. Your participation in the survey makes it possible for the country to continue to make tremendous strides in taking control and reversing the impact of the HIV epidemic in Lesotho,” Ms Gonzales said.
Ms Gonzales said she was proud to have witnessed first-hand the achievements of the ongoing work to fight the pandemic.
“The United States government will continue to work directly with communities and partners across Lesotho to deliver quality care that provides accessible treatment options and improved outcomes.
“It is my hope that we remain energised as we work towards the next milestone, maintaining a stable and responsive national HIV and AIDS programme in Lesotho and reaching the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2030,” she added.