LESOTHO has witnessed one of the milestones in improving TB and HIV response among the most vulnerable population who are children and adolescents.
Aug. 2, 2021
3 min read
TB, HIV response improves
Disease Control Director of the Ministry of Health, Dr Llang Maama
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This was revealed on Friday at a validation meeting which was to table the draft Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) HIV and TB Priority Charter for adolescents and children on discussions and adoption by CSOs stakeholders.
The National AIDS Commission (NAC) was applauded for its coordination role, the CSOs for their commitment to make the charter a reality and the donor - the President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was lauded for funding the consultant to make the process a reality.
The Disease Control Director of the Ministry of Health, Dr Llang Maama said despite the high Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) coverage globally, the truth is that new infections in children still persist, especially among adolescents and young mothers.
She said there are still some pregnant mothers with high viral load and this increases chances of passing the virus to their babies.
Dr Maama said TB is particularly difficult to diagnose and manage in children since many do not have access to the most effective tests and child friendly treatments.
“Often, children with TB are misdiagnosed and treated for other ailments. Although children are more likely to develop active TB disease when exposed to adults with TB, they are rarely offered TB preventive treatment despite the recommendation by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“This is especially true for children with compromised immune systems due to young age, malnutrition or HIV infection,” she also said.
NAC’s Mason Mosonngoa Motseko said despite Lesotho’s achievement of 90-90-90 targets, the country still lags behind in meeting TB and HIV targets amongst children and adolescents.
It is estimated that about 13 000 children aged 0 to 14 years and 306 000 adults above 15 years of age are currently living with HIV in Lesotho.
The co-infection of TB and HIV Mrs Motseko said continues to pose challenges of adherence to both anti-tubercular medication and antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The ART coverage amongst adolescents and young people remains low, whilst viral load suppression amongst children is sub-standard.
The risk of progression to TB disease is said to be higher if infection occurs before adolescence and in those who are immune-compromised.
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Additionally, extra pulmonary TB is more prevalent in children, young adults, and in cases of HIV-associated TB. Therefore, it remains imperative to accord children and adolescents special consideration owing to their cultural, social, and economic vulnerability.
Based on the aforementioned background, Mrs Motseko said it is time to advocate for HIV and AIDS as well as TB in the country more collaboratively.
“Thus, the CSO’s Priority Charter we are validating today has fostered the strategic partnerships to advocate for national issues related to HIV and AIDS as well as TB with one voice.
“It is therefore envisaged that through our concerted efforts, we will reach the set National and Global targets, hence attain the epidemic control by the year 2030,” she adds.
Similarly, the National Tuberculosis Strategic Plan of Lesotho, 2018-2022 also stipulates that TB is primarily driven by the HIV epidemic and that both are major Public Health Problems, hence the need to integrate TB into HIV and AIDS response.