Lesotho has the second highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world.Nearly 23 percent of the population is living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. According to UNAIDS, last year, the majority of infected adults were women, about 170,000 of them, and 13,000 were children under the age of 14. Today, HIV/AIDS is the most frequent cause of orphaning in Lesotho-- some 73,000 children under the age of 17 have lost at least one parent to the disease.
Preventing mother to child transmission of the disease is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of HIV. This is a sound strategy, and one that has been adopted to good effect by the government of Lesotho. But it is only effective if women have access to healthcare. And that can be a problem. As recently as 2013, some 72 percent of women lived in areas that offered no local HIV/AIDS care.
For that reason, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is partnering with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS foundation to launch a five-year, 62 million dollar program that will dramatically expand comprehensive and integrated HIV/AIDS care and treatment services to Lesotho’s children and adults affected by HIV.USAID is working through a proxy, Lesotho’s Providing Universal Services for HIV/AIDS, or PUSH Project.
The idea is to expand by 2018, medical service to 80 percent of people living with HIV in three new districts. That’s in addition to the three districts which are already covered by PEPFAR. This means including family-centered HIV/AIDS care and treatment services at all health facilities, and an all-out effort to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV to below 5 percent. The program will help to identify problems and work toward continual improvement at all levels, with an eye toward advancing Lesotho’s goal of achieving universal treatment coverage
“We have developed this project in close partnership with the Ministry of Health and other vital care and treatment partners in Lesotho,” said Cheryl Anderson, USAID’s Southern Africa Mission Director.“[This is] part of a unified effort towards achieving the ambitious PEPFAR and UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, with the eventual goal of an AIDS-free generation.”