LESOTHO has made significant strides in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic owing to a number of initiatives such as the Test-and-Treat approach and the collaboration between the government and development partners.
This was said by former Health minister ‘Molotsi Monyamane in his presentation at the International AIDS Society (IAS) Midterm Review meeting in held in Paris, France last month.
In a recent interview with the Lesotho Times, Dr Monyamane said he represented Lesotho at the meeting as in his capacity as the former Health minister.
He said Lesotho had made notable gains in the fight against the pandemic as the first sub-Saharan African country to adopt the Test-and-Treat approach in 2016. Lesotho’s HIV-prevalence is the second highest in the world at 25 percent.
Test-and-Treat is a World Health Organisation programme adopted by the Ministry of Health to provide antiretroviral treatment to all HIV positive people regardless of how sick they are or their CD4 count.
The programme has been complemented by the 90-90-90 treatment targets which seek to end the pandemic by ensuring that by the year 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
The targets further seek to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy while 90 percent of all people receiving ARV therapy will have viral suppression.
Dr Monyamane said the number of people who were tested for HIV and put on treatment had increased, adding that viral load testing had also increased.
“The number of people who underwent HIV testing and counselling increased from 199 163 in December 2015 to 192 796 in March 2017,” he said.
Since the roll-out of the Test-and-Treat programme in April 2016, ART enrolments had increased four-fold from 924 in 2003 to 175 272 in April 2016.
Viral load testing had also increased from 1 500 form October 2014 to more than 30 000 in March 2017.
Dr Monyamane also indicated that the improvements could also be attributed to the government’s partnering with development partners.
“The previous government had a cabinet sub-committee of nine ministers dealing with HIV which was chaired by former deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing. This was complemented by the strong partnership between the government of Lesotho, development partners and United Nations.”
He said the government was procuring close to 70 percent of all ARVs and strengthening health systems by providing 80 percent of the funding.