Vo­da­com launches ANTI-HIV/AIDS project

Lesotho Times - - News - Mo­halenyane Phakela

HEALTH Min­is­ter Dr Molotsi Monyane has lauded Vo­da­com Le­sotho (VCL) for in­vest­ing heav­ily in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pan­demic.

Dr Monya­mane made the re­mark yes­ter­day dur­ing the launch of the telecommunications gi­ant’s Moyo Le­sotho Project at AVANI Le­sotho Ho­tel. The Moyo Le­sotho Project is an ini­tia­tive of the Voda­fone Foun­da­tion in part­ner­ship with the Min­istry of Health, USAID and global pri­vate part­ners such as El­ton John AIDS Foun­da­tion, Viiv Health­care and ELMA Phi­lan­thropies.

It is aimed at sup­port­ing chil­dren and preg­nant women liv­ing with HIV/AIDS us­ing Vo­da­com’s mo­bile tech­nol­ogy to link them to much-needed care. The three-year pro­gramme is fo­cused on the Leribe and Maseru dis­tricts which are most af­fected by the pan­demic in the coun­try.

Dr Monyane de­scribed the ini­tia­tive as a “bless­ing to our coun­try and to our health sys­tem.”

“I com­mend Vo­da­com for ded­i­cat­ing a huge amount of re­sources, work­force and ex­per­tise to an ini­tia­tive that will im­prove the lives of its cus­tomers,” he said.

“As the Min­istry of Health, we are ex­tremely happy that these crit­i­cal part­ner­ships were formed. We have no doubt in our minds that the strong ex­per­tise that has been put around this project through these strong part­ner­ships will re­sult in a great im­pact in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Le­sotho.”

Also present at the launch were var­i­ous stake­hold­ers who in­cluded the Chair­man of the VCL board Mat­jato Moteane, Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Khotso Let­satsi, US Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho Matthew Har­ring­ton and Voda­fone Foun­da­tion Head of Pro­grammes Lee Wells.

On his part, Mr Moteane said it was heart­en­ing to see so many stake­hold­ers work­ing to­gether to nip the scourge of HIV/AIDS in the bud.

“The Moyo Le­sotho Project is a multi-mil­lion dol­lar ef­fort led by the dif­fer­ent stake- hold­ers. To­gether we aim to dou­ble the num­ber of HIV pos­i­tive chil­dren on treat­ment in three years and to elim­i­nate mother to child trans­mis­sion of HIV,” he said.

“We can achieve this by in­tro­duc­ing sev­eral in­no­va­tive mo­bile tech­nolo­gies as well as by fund­ing im­prove­ments in the ar­eas of pa­tient to health cen­tre link­ages, the man­age­ment and train­ing of com­mu­nity health work­ers.

“Our mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and M-pesa plat­form have fa­cil­i­tated the bring­ing of life­sav­ing ser­vices to com­mu­ni­ties in Le­sotho and it is our aim and com­mit­ment to keep it grow­ing.”

Since 2014, Mr Moteane said, Voda­fone and VCL had been work­ing very closely with other part­ners to build the pro­gramme and to iden­tify the ma­jor chal­lenges in as­sist­ing Hiv-pos­i­tive chil­dren.

“One sim­ple but enor­mous bar­rier is the cost of trav­el­ling to get treat­ment. In 2015, we suc­cess­fully in­te­grated our M-pesa mo­bile money sys­tem into pa­tient re­fer­ral pro­cesses so that money could be trans­ferred to as­sist pa­tients who need to travel to a health cen­tre,” he said.

In his re­marks, Mr Wells said the pro­gramme had made great strides since its in­cep­tion in April 2015.

“We have seen an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple get­ting treat­ment in the ru­ral ar­eas of Leribe and Maseru since last year. I at­tended a cou­ple of fa­cil­i­ta­tions and it was great to see peo­ple com­ing in large num­bers and dif­fer­ent ages; from as lit­tle as eight weeks to 80-year olds,” he said.

“In Le­sotho, only 5 000 of 20 000 chil­dren liv­ing with HIV are get­ting treat­ment and we need the com­mu­nity to help us reach out to more chil­dren un­til we have de­creased the rate of mor­tal­ity by a great per­cent­age.”

Am­bas­sador Har­ring­ton said his coun­try was proud to have in­jected $3 mil­lion to the pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship that was chang­ing lives.

“The United States is proud to be a close and ded­i­cated part­ner in the fight against the HIV epi­demic in Le­sotho. We will con­tinue to com­mit sub­stan­tial re­sources and to work hand in hand with gov­ern­ment, ex­ter­nal part­ners and civil so­ci­ety in this crit­i­cal strug­gle,” he said.

“To­day we come to­gether to cel­e­brate an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to the fight against HIV. We are be­gin­ning to see glim­mers of hope now af­ter so many years of hard work and bad news. Le­sotho has made some progress against HIV. In 2006 six per­cent of HIV­pos­i­tive adults and chil­dren were on life­sav­ing treat­ment. A decade later that fig­ure has risen to 40 per­cent.”

Mr Let­satsi also thanked Voda­fone Foun­da­tion for their “tremen­dous fore­sight in ad­dress­ing a com­mon ail­ment that has been eat­ing away at our so­ci­ety for decades”.

“Through this project, Vo­da­com is show­ing that the idea of tech­nol­ogy be­ing at the core of solv­ing prob­lems in our so­ci­ety is no myth. It is, in fact, true and we are see­ing it here to­day with the un­veil­ing of the in­no­va­tive ap­proach to ad­dress­ing HIV and AIDS in our com­mu­nity,” he said.

From left: Com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Khotso Let­satsi, Health min­is­ter Dr molotsi monya­mane and Voda­fone Foun­da­tion Head of Pro­grammes Lee Wells dur­ing the moyo Le­sotho Project launch yes­ter­day.

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