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Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso led the candle lighting and launch of the Point of Care for Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) Machine at the World AIDS Day commemoration in Maseru on Thursday.

The machine is meant to detect the infants’ HIV status within two hours to fast-track treatment in saving their lives and 159 health centres around Lesotho will have such installations to reduce the time taken between infection detection and treatment administration.

Under the theme “Hands Up For HIV Prevention”, the commemoration staged at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre also drew attendance from the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Ministers and Heads of the Diplomatic Mission among others who toured projects and photo exhibitions while DPM Mothetjoa Metsing presented awards to People Living with HIV and AIDS with tokens of appreciation.

The commemoration that follows the reinstallation of the National AIDS Commission (NAC) also drew participation from the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) students who gave an emotional theatre performance on the behaviour patterns that make youth prone to HIV infection, while local individuals performers presented their performances on the theme.

In her address Her Majesty said while the nation is in the process to remember brothers and sisters lost to AIDS-related deaths and having celebrated the 50th Independence Anniversary, this should serve as an opportune moment to reflect on the journey traveled over the 30 years since the HIV pandemic. She added that this is an opportunity to reaffirm commitment hence the need to be effective and responsive to the pandemic as this year’s theme is a reminder that Basotho need invigorate and eradicate infection by 2030.

She said it challenges to reaffirm targets while she noted that new infections have according to statistics revealed that new HIV infections are more prevalent in women aged 30 to 35 years of age hence said this calls for consolidated efforts to ensure that the current infection statistics are reduced and on this note revealed that the current statistics rate women as being most vulnerable to infection while infection statistics stood at 23.9 percent in 2009 and rose to 45 percent in 2014.

“The situation remains dire and calls for serious introspection and continuing business as usual risks the future of Lesotho and we need to work together and do better,” the Queen said.

She stated that the interventions such as the reestablishment of the NAC with stakeholder coordination, Test and Treat making Lesotho first country in Sub-Saharan Africa and second in the world to launch, the viral load testing in three regional laboratories and the provision for HIV test for infants among others call for stakeholders to undertake massive effort to improve outreach programmes, drug supply and as well as help Lesotho address the stigma and discrimination aligned with an HIV positive status as such inhibits and deters people from seeking HIV services.

At the same event the United States (US) Ambassador to Lesotho Mr. Matthew Harrington said he has in the past year witnessed and engaged in visionary leadership and innovative policy changes that are having a positive, lasting impact on the lives of many Basotho. 

Ambassador Harrington said the US Embassy celebrated World AIDS Day by heeding the government’s plea for all of its partners to celebrate this day in a very different way than in the past, saying they volunteered their time to help those affected by the AIDS epidemic. He added that the US Embassy team spent a morning volunteering at St Cecilia’s home of orphans and vulnerable children on the outskirts of Maseru where 68 children are cared for under the custody of Reverend Mahlaku.

He said they painted several rooms, donated food and supplies and as well as spent time with the children living there who have faced challenges unimaginable.

The US Ambassador noted that the Government of Lesotho took a bold step earlier this year to launch the Test and Treat, which he said was not an easy policy decision given the potential financial implications that he however said is already making a dramatic difference as each Mosotho who tests positive is now eligible to begin treatment right away instead of having to wait for months or years until their CD4 count drops to a certain level.

“As a result we have seen a substantial increase in the numbers of HIV-positive Basotho on treatment in the five target districts supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),” he asserted adding that in 2014 when he gave his first World AIDS Day speech only 35 percent of HIV-positive individuals were on anti-retroviral treatment (ART); a number which he said has increased to 42 percent in 2015. He said in 2016, 57 percent of HIV-positive Basotho are on ART in the five PEPFAR supported districts.

The commemoration meanwhile had Lesotho Network for People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENPWHA)’s chairperson Ms. Teboho Kalikali who said that the organisation has several members who are poised to work hard in improving Lesotho’s current status of being the second in global rankings on HIV and AIDS prevalence, while the Champions of Hope Ambassadors through Ms. ‘Macorina Phakisi expressed gratitude for the reestablishment of the NAC. She expressed hope that the organisation would operate at community level in collaboration with stakeholder offices in Community Councils.

The 2016 World AIDS Day commemoration paid tribute to the fallen champions comprising Lebohang Monyane, Thulo Masaile, Kekeletso Serobanyane, Mothusi Masholugu, Ntoi Matela and Bakuena Chele.


Source: LENA 01/12/2016

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