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Lesotho urged to go techno to quell new HIV infections

‘MATIISETSO MOSALA AND TUMISANG SERAME

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Machesetsa Mofomobe has advised parliament to adopt technological applications to remind people at regular intervals to use condoms as a preventive measure against HIV/AIDS.

This approach, Mofomobe recommended during National Assembly’s deliberations on new HIV/AIDS infections threatening prospects of sustainable funding to support treatment of the pandemic.

“New infections are emerging daily and given the persistence, donor funding for HIV treatment in Lesotho may be in jeopardy if the country does not achieve the set agenda to stop new infections by 2030,” warned Fako Moshoeshoe, Social Cluster- HIV/AIDS portfolio committee chairperson.

According to Lesotho Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA) report issued in January 2019, the Kingdom of two million population registers 13,000 new cases of HIV every year among adults aged 15 to 59 years.

In an effort to rein in the soaring new infections’ statistics, Mofomobe advised for adoption of technological approaches, adding, “It is important to revisit the 2018 policy on HIV/AIDS to establish whether it truly addresses real issues on the ground and to prioritise critical issues such as health related ones”.

Another legislator, Tšepang Tšita Mosena, said girls are more prone to the infection as female condoms are not readily available like their male counterparts who easily access condoms in public spaces.

Mosena lamented that abject poverty coupled with the scourge of unemployment forces young women into unprotected sex with rich men for the sake of putting bread on the table.

As the member to parliamentary Sustainable Development Goals Committee, Mosena said the committee is unable to track progress on HIV/AIDS due to lack of proper statistics.

She added this made it even more complicated to address goal three of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that advocates for good health and well-being.

To address this problem, the National Assembly on last were Friday (November 8) passed a motion to institutionalise universal test and treat policy for HIV in the country for the purpose of proper budgeting in fighting the phenomenon.

This was in line with the United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation that countries introduce domestic financing for combating HIV/AIDS.

Moshoeshoe lauded the initiative, saying it would assist the country compile needed statistics on HIV status of all individuals as a measure towards curbing new infections and giving direction on whether government should prioritise Pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) or Antiretroviral (ARVs).

Moshoeshoe pressed for commitment on the test and treat policy indicating that there is a new Prep treatment different from the existing treatment.

Unlike the old Prep that required daily intake for 30 days, the new Prep prescribes two pills 24 hours before engaging in a sexual activity and two more after to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection after exposure to HIV.

In an interview Polo Motšoari, the Prep and Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) Communications Manager at Lesotho’s country office for Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (Jhpiego) said the new drug will have more effectiveness than the already existing pill.

“The new Prep will save a lot of people especially the youth since they are the ones more likely to be exposed to HIV during unprotected sex. This will in turn stem new infections in the best way possible,” Motšoari outlined.

Motšoari was, however, doubtful that the country will meet the 2030 target of becoming AIDS-free nation.

“I do not see Lesotho as an AIDS-free nation that early because high number of people still shuns use of condoms. But with the introduction of the new pill, 90 percent of the target is likely to be attained,” Motšoari notes.

“Given the delicacy of the matter, HIV positive people need to be supported and encouraged to take medication properly to suppress the virus,” she urged, adding when the viral load is suppressed, tests can show no sign of virus.

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