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Gatekeepers vow to be champions of HIV Prevention

By Liapeng Raliengoane

BUTHA-BUTHE – Subsequent to attending a two-day sensitization on HIV prevention, the community Gatekeepers from around Butha-Buthe vowed to become champions of HIV prevention interventions.

The Chiefs, Police, Traditional Doctors, Community Councillors, Pastors, Representatives of Government ministries and the youth were part of these gatekeepers.

While delivering Comprehensive Condom Programming, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Program Analyst Thabo Lebaka revealed that male and female condoms are the only prevention methods that simultaneously protect sexual partners from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV and unintended pregnancy. Lebaka also disclosed that studies reveal that the youth are more afraid of pregnancy than STIs as they explain that they use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. And that widows are more vulnerable and prone to new HIV infections.  

The Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs HIV and AIDS Coordinator Malefetsane Nkhabu on the gateway approach in HIV service delivery urged the community gatekeepers to become champions of service delivery and to seek services form service providers, that way the community will trust them and take their word, thus prevent HIV from the grassroots.

One of the attendees who is a Preacher, ‘Mamoliehi Lengeta said they will include HIV education in their sermons to keep the congregants in the loop about HIV/AIDS. She thanked National Aids Commission and partners for bringing them together and showing them how best HIV prevention can be tackled.

Another attendee, who is a Traditional Doctor, Sello Sefatsane expressed delight and promised that as Traditional Doctors, they will work hand in hand with health authorities and will continue putting into practice the procedures that health and safety require, as they also are doctors for initiation schools.

Chief Teboho Kereisane said as chiefs, they will talk about HIV at public gatherings, funerals and celebrations just as they did with Covid-19. He urged for the communities to remember that HIV still exists and to not take it as a boring subject because they have heard a lot about it.

Lesotho Civil Society Organizations’ HIV and TB Priority Charter for children and adolescents report by National AIDS Commission of Lesotho presented during 2022 International AIDS Society Conference states that despite Lesotho achieving 90-97-92 towards 90-90-90 targets, she still has some challenges amongst children & adolescents. There are still pregnant mothers with high viral load and this increases chances of infection to infants, 5% in 2021. New HIV infections in children and adolescents still persist, 80% of new infections happen among 15-34, according to LePHIA 2020.

On behalf of the Government of Lesotho, the National AIDS Commission, through the support from the UN Family Agencies (UNFPA, UNAIDS and UNDP) have made notable progress towards fast tracking implementation of the National HIV & AIDS Strategic Plan 2018/19-2022/23. The NHASP recommends development of the District Fast Track Plans that are responsive to the Lesotho National Decentralization Policy of 2014.

As the first step of working on decentralization of HIV services, District AIDS Committees (DACs) were resuscitated and provided with both financial and technical support to develop their respective District Fast Track Plans (DFTPs). As preparation to roll out implementation of these DFTPs, 3 District AIDS Committees (Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing & Mokhotlong) were provided with capacity building and further implementation followed suit.

Furthermore, three more districts were chosen according to challenges they are faced with, Butha-Buthe, which has a development site with Ha-Belo factory site that will see influx of people when they operationalize those factories and possibly affect its status as a district with the lowest HIV prevalence in the country; Thaba-Tseka has been experiencing a worrisome rise in child marriages and lastly Mafeteng, which LePHIA showed that has the highest prevalence in the country.

District AIDS Committees in these three districts were capacitated and now NAC is providing more support to these Committees to implement their District Fast Track Plans focusing on HIV prevention interventions.