America pledges sup­port for HIV fight

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

THE Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to sup­port Le­sotho’s fight against HIV/AIDS through its Pres­i­dent’s Emer­gency Plan For AIDS Re­lief (PEPFAR).

Ac­cord­ing to the United States (US) Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for South­ern Africa and Pub­lic Diplo­macy Todd Haskell who vis­ited Maseru this week to see the impact of PEPFAR’S sup­port and the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion’s (MCC) ren­o­va­tion of health cen­tres un­der Com­pact One com­pleted in 2013, Le­sotho’s health­care had im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly through the two ini­tia­tives.

Mr Haskell, US Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho Matthew Har­ring­ton, Min­istry of Health Di­rec­tor-gen­eral Dr Nyane Let­sie and El­iz­a­beth Glaser Pe­di­atric AIDS Foun­da­tion (EGPAF) Coun­try Di­rec­tor Ap­poli­naire Tiam on Tues­day vis­ited Maseru Sev­enth Day Ad­ven­tist Health Cen­tre (Maseru SDAHC) — one of the coun­try’s health fa­cil­i­ties re­fur­bished through funds from the MCC and which con­tin­ues to en­joy the as­sis­tance of PEPFAR.

Also in at­ten­dance was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Le­sotho Net­work of Peo­ple Liv­ing with HIV/AIDS, and Ma­luti Ad­ven­tist Hos­pi­tal Nurs­ing Ser­vices Co­or­di­na­tor ’ Mat­seko­tom-moseneke.

The group was taken on tour Maseru SDAHC by the Nurse-in-charge, ‘Makarabo Khoeli, who ex­plained the var­i­ous ser­vices of­fered at the fa­cil­ity.

PEPFAR is the US gov­ern­ment’s ini­tia­tive to help save the lives of those suf­fer­ing from HIV/AIDS around the world. The largest ini­tia­tive by any na­tion to com­bat a sin­gle dis­ease in­ter­na­tion­ally, PEPFAR in­vest­ments also help al­le­vi­ate suf­fer­ing from other dis­eases and are driven by a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity among donor and part­ner na­tions to save lives.

From 2006 to 2015, PEPFAR pro­vided over US$ 250 mil­lion to sup­port Le­sotho’s HIV/ AIDS re­sponse.

The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment has pre­vi­ously ex­pressed con­cern over Le­sotho’s se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion which saw three op­po­si­tion lead­ers — Thomas Tha­bane, Th­e­sele ‘ Maserib­ane and Keketso Ran­tšo of the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho, re­spec­tively — flee­ing for South Africa in May last year, say­ing they feared as­sas­si­na­tion by mem­bers of the mil­i­tary.

Cer­tain sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion now fear the Amer­i­cans could with­draw as­sis­tance to Le­sotho be­cause of th­ese con­cerns since the aid comes with con­di­tions there is po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in the coun­try.

How­ever, Mr Haskell told the Le­sotho Times that America’s as­sis­tance in Le­sotho’s bat­tle against HIV/AIDS was not con­di­tional.

“One thing we are clear about is that our con­cerns about those is­sues (po­lit­i­cal sta­bil- ity) have noth­ing to do with PEPFAR. We are very com­mit­ted to our co­op­er­a­tion in the health sec­tor. And that is some­thing that is go­ing to re­main no mat­ter what. That’s our com­mit­ment,” Mr Haskell said.

“Here we are con­grat­u­lat­ing the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment on its ef­forts in the health sec­tor and we are go­ing to stand side by side with them mov­ing for­ward.”

Mr Haskell fur­ther com­mended Le­sotho for im­ple­ment­ing the test-and-treat pol­icy in April this year which he said was a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment in the fight against HIV/AIDS. At 23 per­cent, Le­sotho has the sec­ond-high­est HIV preva­lence in the world be­hind Swazi­land’s 26 per­cent.

“This is a part­ner­ship; it is not only the United States com­ing in to help. In fact, I have met a lot of im­pres­sive peo­ple here in Le­sotho who are do­ing very im­por­tant work in fight­ing HIV and AIDS.

“When I look at the work be­ing done, it re­ally warms my heart that the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the United States and Le­sotho is so strong and it is achiev­ing so many im­por­tant mile­stones.

“We are in this together, and so together we are go­ing to move for­ward with the HIV test and treat pro­gramme. Ev­ery­body agrees that the test and treat is a good ap­proach.

“I un­der­stand Le­sotho is the first coun­try on the con­ti­nent to go for the test and treat ini­tia­tive and that means so many peo­ple are go­ing to be get­ting care.

“So many more peo­ple are go­ing to be aware of their re­sults and avoid so much tragedy. It’s a good step for­ward.

“I want to per­son­ally con­grat­u­late the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment for mov­ing so quickly ahead,” Mr Haskell said.

For his part, Am­bas­sador Har­ring­ton said Le­sotho was among the few coun­tries whose PEPFAR fund­ing is not be­ing reduced.

“It is im­por­tant to us that we are mak­ing this progress in the health sec­tor. The bud­get here is go­ing up. We are go­ing to con­tinue work­ing together. In other coun­tries, PEPFAR bud­gets are de­creas­ing, but not here in Le­sotho,” said Am­bas­sador Har­ring­ton.

Mean­while, Maseru SDA Health Cen­tre Nurse-in-charge Khoeli ex­plained the ser­vices of­fered at the fa­cil­ity such as Hiv-test­ing, Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis screen­ing and treat­ment, gen­eral ser­vices for peo­ple liv­ing with HIV that in­clude mon­i­tor­ing pa­tients on treat­ment by en­sur­ing they take their med­i­ca­tion.

“As a re­sult of the re­fur­bish­ment of this fa­cil­ity, we are now de­liv­er­ing ba­bies here and have five houses for nurses and two ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­i­ties for ex­pec­tant moth­ers. We also of­fer com­pre­hen­sive an­te­na­tal and post­na­tal care, fam­ily plan­ning and preven­tion of mother-to-child trans­mis­sion treat­ment pro­grammes,” said Ms Khoeli.

One of the preg­nant Hiv-pos­i­tive women who was re­ceiv­ing ser­vices dur­ing the tour told Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Haskell that with the com­mit­ment of PEPFAR and quali- ty ser­vices of­fered at the new clinic, she was con­fi­dent of giv­ing birth to an Hiv-free baby.

She fur­ther said the test-and-treat ini­tia­tive would also go a long way to­wards changing the lives of many Hiv-pos­i­tive Ba­sotho and guar­an­tee them a longer life­span.

On her part, Dr Let­sie com­mended the im­mense con­tri­bu­tion the Mcc-funded upgrading and re­fur­bish­ment of health fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try had brought to Le­sotho’s health de­liv­ery sys­tem.

“As a re­sult of the re­fur­bish­ment of health cen­tres and clin­ics across the coun­try, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties who were never able to de­liver ba­bies in health fa­cil­i­ties can do so to­day. We are go­ing all out across the coun­try to en­sure all the tar­gets are reached.

“The num­ber of ma­ter­nal deaths is de­creas­ing. To­day women have clin­ics that can fur­nish them with the nec­es­sary sup­port and pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance,” she said.

Dr Let­sie fur­ther noted the MCC fund­ing cov­ered the re­fur­bish­ment of both gov­ern­ment-owned health fa­cil­i­ties and those owned by the Christian Health As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho (CHAL).

“Sup­port from the MCC cov­ered CHAL and gov­ern­ment clin­ics and to­day, as a re­sult of the sup­port, all the health fa­cil­i­ties are the same,” Dr Let­sie said.

She fur­ther noted the re­fur­bish­ment had brought com­pre­hen­sive health ser­vices closer to com­mu­ni­ties, even those in the most re­mote ar­eas of the coun­try.

“This de­vel­op­ment has also in­creased the num­ber of health pro­fes­sion­als’ hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties. In the past, due to sev­eral short­com­ings, qual­ity in the health sec­tor was com­pro­mised.

“But to­day we can now house five mid­wives and they have room to do their work and of­fer di­verse ser­vices to pa­tients at one health cen­tre” Dr Let­sie said.

Dr Let­sie also said the Health Min­istry was urg­ing the Min­istry of En­ergy to in­stall elec­tric­ity in ru­ral ar­eas where clin­ics are lo­cated to en­sure they have power at all times, which is crit­i­cal in pre­serv­ing drugs and op­er­at­ing ma­chin­ery, among oth­ers.

She fur­ther noted her Min­istry had urged the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­istry to con­struct roads across the coun­try to make clin­ics eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble.

“We are em­ploy­ing a rounded, peo­ple-cen­tred ap­proach to en­sure all stake­hold­ers at the grass­roots are en­gaged,” said Dr Let­sie.

“Right now we are go­ing all out to en­gage lo­cal chiefs, coun­cil­lors, the gen­eral pub­lic, and other gov­ern­ment min­istries.

“We are ask­ing that when they con­nect elec­tric­ity they should tar­get places where there are clin­ics and they should be build­ing roads for ease of ac­cess to ser­vices at the clin­ics

“So we are work­ing on a peo­ple-cen­tred ap­proach now to en­sure bet­ter ser­vice-de­liv­ery in the health sec­tor.”

US Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for South­ern Africa and Pub­lic Diplo­macy Todd Haskell (sixth from right) and US Am­bas­sador to Le­sotho Matthew Har­ring­ton (fifth from left) dur­ing their visit to Maseru SDAHC on Tues­day.

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