Lesotho: HIV free babies bring hope
16 July 2009
“Strengthened services for maternal health, for reproductive health and for paediatric health will mean we can prevent mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV in Lesotho and around the world,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director.
Strengthened services for maternal health, for reproductive health and for paediatric health will mean we can prevent mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV in Lesotho and around the world,
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
Mr Sidibé was speaking during his official visit to Lesotho which ended with a visit to the children’s ward and mother and child health section of the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Maseru. He was accompanied by the Minister of Health Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng.
Mr Sidibé earlier was welcomed into the home of Ms Pitso a HIV-positive mother who thanks to access to services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission gave birth 11 months ago to her baby boy Emlyn who is free of HIV. Mr Sidibé listened to Ms Pitso’s hopes for a bright future for her son. Mr Sidibé has championed the prevention of babies from becoming infected with HIV as a priority for UNAIDS and its Cosponsors.
Lesotho has made progress in coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission services for pregnant women, up from 5% in 2006 to 42% in the first quarter 2009. Without any intervention, an HIV positive pregnant woman’s chances of passing HIV to her baby are 30-40%. Infection transmission is the highest during pregnancy and delivery, but also during breastfeeding, especially if breast milk is mixed with other feeding. With the provision of a comprehensive prevention services, the transmission rate can be reduced to less than 2%.
“Lesotho is a model in its achievements, particularly in the field of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV,” said Mr Sidibé.
At the Queen Elizabeth II hospital, Mr Sidibé also acknowledged the contribution and commitment of health care workers. Addressing staff shortages in health and social sectors has been an aim of the Government of Lesotho who in partnership with the UN have developed an emergency human resources strategic plan, which includes ways of attracting, training and retaining health personnel.
His Majesty, King Letsie III hosted a meeting yesterday with the Executive Director. Mr Sidibé also met with and Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili-Qhobosheaneng, members of Lesotho’s national AIDS Commission, and other senior government officials.
During his two day visit he participated in a joint civil society meeting with the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENEPWA), Lesotho Inter-Religious AIDS Consortium (LIRAC) and Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN). The organizations stressed the need for strengthened institutional capacity and delivery of meaningful and evidence based programmes to achieve a unified response to HIV.
Mr Sidibé, addressing the participants who are openly living with HIV, said “It is because of your experience and your life that we have managed to break the conspiracy of silence surrounding HIV and AIDS.”
Mr Sidibé had a meeting with UN staff and the UN Country Team followed by lunch catered by Positively Masutsa, a catering service exclusively employing HIV positive people.
An evening event hosted by acting Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Relations, Mr Semano Sekatle included the launch of the first Joint UN programme on AIDS in Lesotho. Launching the joint programme Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, the country’s UN Resident Coordinator said: “Lesotho deserves a unified UN that is not fragmented, that does not duplicate efforts and resources, but stands in a united front against the scourge of HIV.”
Lesotho has the third highest adult HIV prevalence in the world with 23% of those aged 15 to 49 living with HIV. Multiple sexual relationships are a major risk factor in Lesotho’s hyper endemic HIV situation.