Fight against HIV beefed up

… activists say HIV prevention combination vital to reduce prevalence

STAFF REPORTERS

Learning more and appropriately using HIV prevention combination method will assist Lesotho reduce high prevalence.
This, Jhpiego Communication Manager Polo Mots’oari disclosed in an interview on Tuesday. She added that using HIV prevention combination method is more effective as no single HIV prevention intervention offers a magic bullet.
She indicated that over a period of one year and three months that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) was administered in Lesotho, they have noted that their target group which is adolescent girls have learned more about PrEP dismissing all the myths that are associated with it.
She highlighted: “During the first month of administering PrEP, we only reached eight girls, however, to date we manage to reach at least 500 adolescent girls monthly. This is a great milestone as HIV prevalence is high in that group, therefore, we managed to prevent the spread of more HIV.”
Mots’oari revealed that the project focuses on adolescent girls “as in most cases they lack power to negotiate safe sex and as a result are at a high risk to conduct HIV.” She further pointed out that it is vital for people who access PrEP to remember that this pill works best when used alongside other HIV prevention methods such as condoms.
“PrEP is for people who are HIV negative but at risk of HIV infection such as those who have unprotected sex with people of unknown status, who have multiple sexual partners, who have sexually transmitted infections frequently as well as those who experience frequent condom bursts among others,” she said.
Mots’oari further noted that PrEP works best when taken daily as prescribed by health providers. She said when taken consistently PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV infection by 90 percent.
PrEP is new additional HIV prevention method launched by the Ministry of Health in 2016.
Meanwhile only 35.5 percent of young women and men aged 15 to 24 in Lesotho have a full understanding of how to prevent HIV, Avert – global information and education on HIV and AIDS – has revealed.

Avert’s mission is to ensure widespread knowledge and understanding of HIV and AIDS, in order to reduce infections and improve the lives of those affected. They do this by promoting innovative approaches, partnerships and action to inform and empower.
Working in partnership with Phelisanang Bophelong (PB) since April 2015 to encourage young people in the Leribe district to access HIV services and discuss sexual health, Avert has been supporting the Organisation to improve young people’s access to youth-friendly HIV services and ensuring young lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender (LGBT) people and prison inmates have their rights recognised.
Avert’s Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hand asserted that their partnership is also working to break down cultural practices that put young people at risk, and empowering them to make healthy life choices.
She said through its LGBT groups, PB provides information and support to young people from the LGBT community who face stigma, discrimination and a greater risk of HIV, adding that this is improving their ability to access services and demand their rights.
Prisoners are on this note said to have particularly high rates of HIV in Lesotho and that they can infect others in their home communities when they are released if they do not know their status.
PB is reportedly working with prison inmates in Leribe to increase their understanding of HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and human rights and a prison youth group has subsequently been set up with information sharing sessions and training events held to reach other inmates.
Meanwhile, 11 youth groups have been established by community-based volunteers during this project with 1, 500 young people having tested and 2, 000 others reached with sexual health information.
Activities rolled out include youth group meetings, health talks and school visits by youth community volunteers, HIV testing and treatment referral, LGBT and prisoner youth groups as well as intergenerational exchange talks camps of youth and parents.
Over and above, in Lesotho, 25 percent of people aged between 15 and 49 are living with HIV, making it a country with the second highest HIV prevalence in the world according to latest statistics. Young people are especially at risk and often lack the knowledge of how to protect themselves.
In another HIV related developments, the Deputy Minister of Health, Manthabiseng Phohleli says Basotho working in South Africa and are on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment will no longer get medication covering a period of a month but will exceed to three and or six months.
she said this in an interview on Tuesday when confirming the 2019/2020 Fiscal Budget where the Minister of Finance, Dr. Moeketsi Majoro implied that employees will be saved time and costs of traveling on monthly basis to access their treatment.
According to Phohleli, such is a noble initiative meant to ensure that patients’ time and costs are not only saved, but to enable them focus more on their work as opposed to traveling on monthly basis.
Asked the exact dates as to when this shall happen, the Phohleli stated that this will happen immediately after first release and or quarter of the ministry’s budget.
“This is likely to occur around June as we aim to ensure that the needs of patients are addressed,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, she assured the nation that the ministry will continue to ensure that patients still adhere to medication even in this period for the betterment of their lives.
In relation to HIV/AIDS issues, the Lesotho Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) final results dissemination for 2019 has shown a total of 306, 000 Basotho living with HIV/AIDS.
These include those from ages 15-59 with a total of 91.8 percent being on treatment.

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