SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Lesotho cooperates with Global Fund to expand TB and HIV programs

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria recently announced the signing of two grant agreements worth $17 million on Wednesday with Lesotho to expand the country's treatment of HIV and multi-drug-resistant TB.

Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence rate in the world at 24 percent. The country is ranked fourth highest when it comes to TB incidence. Lesotho's TB-HIV co-infection rates are the fifth highest in the world and MDR-TB is becoming a growing challenge.

"We are very pleased to be here today signing these grants," Leketekete Victor Ketso, Lesotho's minister of finance, said. "We expect to make great progress in the fight against the diseases through these and other grants. The Global Fund has also invited Lesotho as an interim applicant with $25 million for HIV and AIDS under its new funding model, which will allow for greater predictability of funding and more strategic investment."

Most of Lesotho's at-risk populations will be reached with a basic prevention package, including condom distribution, management of sexually-transmitted diseases, prevention messages and referrals to health facilities. Civil society organizations and community support groups will help Lesotho to implement the programs.

"The HIV grant signed today will target most vulnerable populations such as women and girls, people living with HIV, and youth out of school, in order to reduce the incidence of new infections and increase universal access to HIV counseling and testing services," Pinkie Rosemary Manamolela, Lesotho's minister of health, said.

The TB grant will seek to address TB-HIV co-infection, MDR-TB and extensively-drug-resistant TB, expand high quality TB treatments and engage communities in TB control.

"Lesotho is making significant efforts to address the emerging problem of multiple TB drug resistance strains and the serious challenge of HIV/TB co-infection," Cynthia Mwase, the regional manager of the Southern and Eastern Africa Team of the Global Fund, said. "However, there is still more work to do with treatment success and completion rates for new and previously treated cases. The Global Fund is pleased to be able to support Lesotho to work towards achieving global targets."

Since 2003, the Global Fund has disbursed $123 million to support the fight against TB and HIV in Lesotho.