The National AIDS Commission (NAC) on Monday launched the Lesotho HIV Prevention Roadmap 2020 providing the basis for a country-led movement to scale up HIV prevention programmes.
The programmes form part of a comprehensive response to meet global and national targets and commitments to end HIV and AIDS as a public threat by 2030. The roadmap was adapted and validated through a consultative process in Lesotho that brought together country organisations including civil society organisation, networks of people living with HIV, representatives of key populations, and international organisations to agree on the way forward to achieving global HIV prevention goals 2020.
The roadmap target-setting guidance was drawn from the UNAIDS and localised to suit the context of Lesotho and strives to accelerate HIV prevention to reduce new infections by 75 percent per the exceptional international and national efforts needed to intensify HIV prevention to meet commitments to end the AIDS epidemic in Lesotho. Thematic consultations are also said to have been conducted to adapt key elements of the roadmap.
It became evident during the presentations of the HIV Roadmap 2020 launch that while Lesotho has made significant progress on treatment coverage in the past five years, progress on primary prevention has however been the weakest in the national response.
The results from the Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment 2017 (LEPHIA) however show that Lesotho has made substantial progress towards the global 90-90-90 by 2020 targets at 77-90-88 respectively. The National Prevention Roadmap 2020 thus serves as a joint guiding tool for national scale up of HIV prevention initiatives outlining 10 action points envisaged for implementing to ensure a common vision of reaching the targets on HIV prevention.
Officiating the launch on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS) Mr. Monaphathi Maraka translated the strategy into being innovative to reach out to men since studies indicate women get tested and are linked to treatment as most are immunosuppressant. He said the same findings reveal women’s adherence to treatment to giving birth to HIV negative children whilst men do not come anywhere near hence the need to encourage them to attend health services.
Mr. Maraka further emphasised the need for Ministry of Health and its partners to roll out services focused on supporting men to bridge the gap, expressing his determination to close the gap between his Ministry and the NAC as relations and collaboration are important and should be intentional in applying the monitoring and evaluation.
He however expressed concern that the Ministry is among those that have allegedly collapsed due to lack of men and women determined to lead HIV and AIDS infection reduction.
“There is a need to develop a consolidated development capacity because if one has a concern, there should be commitment then capacity,” he asserted, noting that without the latter aspect, commitment becomes nothing. He therefore urged all who manage HIV and AIDS projects to serve diligently and avoid returns of funds due to underutilisation and that they should have a monitoring mechanism in place for the projects.
Giving the background overview of the Lesotho HIV Prevention Roadmap 2020, NAC’s Policy and Strategy Manager, Ms. Maja Matsoha said the slow decline of new infections threatens further progress towards ending HIV and AIDS, saying the prevention index maps out current prevention initiative gaps and was conducted in May 2017 and that prevention assessment followed thematic analysis of key issues related to prevention in Lesotho with recommendation for remedial action in August 2017.
Ms. Matsoha noted that prevention consultants reconfirmed impact targets of 2020 with a list of proposed changes in policies to create an enabling environment for prevention programmes, adolescent, young women and key populations.
She said the call of action comprising a 10-point acceleration plan for HIV prevention at country level, lays out the immediate concrete steps that Lesotho is committed to take to accelerate progress towards meeting its commitment on HIV prevention.
She explicated the call of action focuses on conducting a strategic assessment of key prevention needs and identifying policy and programme barriers to progress, developing or revising national targets and roadmaps for HIV prevention 2020, strengthening prevention leadership and making institutional changes to enhance HIV prevention oversight and management as well as assessing available resources for prevention and developing a strategy to close financing gaps.
Also present at the launch was the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative to Lesotho, Ms. Nuzhat Ehsan, who said the Roadmap is critical for guidance for immediate and concrete steps needed to take in accelerating progress on HIV prevention. She said as part of the global efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat, UNFPA, UNAIDS and partners launched the roadmap at the first meeting of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition which brings together UN Member States, civil society, international organisations and other partners as part of efforts to reduce HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020.
Ms. Ehsan reaffirmed UNFPA’s commitment to support and partner with the Government of Lesotho and other sectors in efforts to prevent HIV.
The launching of roadmap comes at a very critical time for Lesotho as the country has just launched the HIV and Health Situation Room which is an innovation expected to hopefully help her improve the HIV response to achieve the 90-90-90 targets. This is the same time that the country is finalising the National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS.