Speaking at the event, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Dr. Marc Derveeuw said he was aware that in 2014, Lesotho made a deliberate effort to revitalize HIV prevention through efforts led by the HIV Prevention Technical Working Group, which developed a ‘Call for Action and Declaration of Commitment’ on July 30 2014, leading to intensified effort to revitalize HIV prevention and have it back on the radar.
He said he was also cognizant of that fact that Lesotho, with other member states in June 2016 in a high Level UN Assembly meeting, further made a political commitment “On the Fast Track of Accelerating the Fight against HIV and to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030” and that the Latest commitment that the Government of Lesotho has made is being signatory to the Global Prevention Coalition and the launching of the National HIV Prevention 2020 Roadmap in 2018.
He stated that the HIV/AIDS stakeholders forum therefore also have to put emphasis on elevating HIV Prevention amongst others, in order to operationalize these important commitments and the milestones set saying these forums are also anticipated to be platforms for information sharing, advocacy and collation of all HIV/AIDS initiatives and programmes in the country, highlighting initiatives or programmes in terms of thematic area and geographical coverage.
Furthermore, Dr. Derveeuw noted that the forum should generate the evidence on HIV prevention for programmatic decision making, as will be seen with the HIV Capacity assessment and Technical Assessment presentation and the Comprehensive HIV Package for Key Populations that will be made later.
He added that HIV prevention forms part of UNFPA's four priority areas in the Eastern and Southern Region and in Lesotho in particular as they work towards four transformative results; ending preventable maternal deaths, ending unmet need for family planning, ending gender based violence and harmful practices and ending transmissible infections including HIV.
He mentioned that the objectives of this forum have been well articulated as well as some key issues regarding HIV Prevention in Lesotho applauding the Government of Lesotho for being signatory to the Global Prevention Coalition and committing to the HIV Prevention 2020 Road Map revitalize the prevention thematic area.
However, he added that HIV prevention seemed to have fallen into cracks due to more emphasis on HIV treatment as part of the country’s investment case.
He said the scope of the response had always been inadequate to address the diverse sources and drivers of the epidemic with limited comprehensive prevention packages that could make a significant and recognizable dent in the new Infections indicating that there had been slow progress in the prevention of new infections.
“We are perturbed by the high HIV Prevalence of 25.6 percent and the high HIV incidence rate of 1.2 percent in females and 1.0 percent in males, translating to estimated 10,000 new infections annually among ages 15-59 as per LePHIA 2017 report. I am given to understand that the most affected populations with new infections are adolescent girls and young women with the key drivers being female sex workers and men who have sex with other men as well as transgenders”, he said.