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US pledges M1.2 billion for Lesotho

  • Money earmarked for HIV control by 2020  

KEISO MOHLOBOLI

United States of America has pledged over one billion Maloti for Lesotho to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS this year.

The money comes through the US’ profound AIDS programme, President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Announcing the development in Maseru this week, the US Ambassador to Lesotho Rebecca Gonzales and the Health Minister Nkaku Kabi, noted a total of M1. 25 billion was being invested by PEPFAR to support Lesotho’s efforts to reach HIV epidemic control by 2020. The support is aimed exclusively for the financial year 2019/2020.

The funding includes an HIV treatment plan to provide lifesaving HIV treatment to Basotho by 2020. This, in line with the Ministry of Health’s plan to accelerate HIV testing, treatment and retention, especially targeted for the most remote districts of the country.

Dubbed ‘an effort by US government to help Lesotho reverse the burden of HIV/AIDS and achieve an AIDS free generation’, Ambassador Gonzales said; “I am pleased to announce 1.25 billion Maloti in funding for Country Operational Plan 2019, which represents an increase in funding over last year”.

Gonzales added: “The United States recognises Lesotho’s commitment and swift adoption of critical policies has brought the country closer to achieving an AIDS free generation. I urge all stakeholders to ensure that commitment continues. Together we must push forward with utmost urgency to make ‘reaching epidemic control by 2020’ a reality. The time to act is now”.

Lesotho is among 13 high burden countries identified by PEPFAR in its strategy to accelerate HIV and AIDs epidemic control that have the potential to reach epidemic control by 2020.

Gonzales has appealed to Lesotho, as the recipient country of the US aid, to invest in health and education, as well as promoting all the US requirements.

“As Trump administration recently announced in its Africa Strategy, the United States will make certain that ALL aid to the region – whether for security, humanitarian, or development needs – advances these US interests. Countries that receive US assistance must invest in health and education, encourage accountable and transparent governance, support fiscal transparency and promote rule of law. Our goal is to move recipient states toward self-reliance and prevent long term dependency,” the Ambassador added.

The HIV treatment plan aims to make it easier for more people to start and stay on treatment by; “expanding the health workforce, including health workers, supporting more direct HIV treatment services, facilitating easier access to HIV medicines and harnessing innovation and technology greater impact”.

Kabi said, in a meeting held in Maseru on Tuesday, that: “Controlling the HIV epidemic is not only possible, it is happening – country by country, community by community – across Africa.  Today, through the generosity of the American people, we are more committed than ever to ending AIDS in Lesotho. This includes by supporting Lesotho’s critical efforts to achieve epidemic control, such as through the rapid acceleration of HIV treatment.”

According to Gonzales, the US will continue working closely with the Lesotho government, “as well as the civil society; faith-based, community and private sector organizations to accelerate optimised HIV testing, treatment and retention strategies, particularly to reach men and expand HIV prevention, particularly for young women under age 25 and men under age 30.”

Since 2007, Americans have invested billions of Maloti in Lesotho through PEPFAR, which supports organisations in the country to provide needed HIV and TB prevention and treatment services.

“If we could hold on to each other’s hands as Basotho, we can control the HIV epidemic and create a safer, healthier, and brighter future for this country. I hope and pray that you will stay aware and engaged in villages where you stay,” Kabi said.

The recent results of Lesotho’s Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) show that Lesotho continues to make progress toward reaching the 90-90-90 targets.

The government of Lesotho has been quick to adopt critical updates to global policies ensuring that the HIV response continues to make progress. 

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