Khotsong, bo ‘me le bo ‘ntate
Please allow me to pay my respects to:
- His Majesty King Letsie III;
- Her Majesty Queen Masenate
- The Right Honorable the Prime Minister
- Honorable Ministers of Cabinet; particularly the Minister of Health who is with us today;
- Principal Chief, Morena Theko
- Members of the diplomatic corps and UN agencies
- District Administrators
- Distinguished Guests,
- Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a pleasure to be here with you today to launch the Lesotho Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA). It is wonderful to see such a great example of partnership. Her Majesty, the Ministry of Health, the United States Government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), ICAP at Columbia University, and the Bureau of Statistics all worked together to make this assessment a reality. Congratulations to everyone who was involved!
Since 2007, the United States Government has stood side-by-side with Lesotho in its fight against the HIV epidemic, committing more than $300 million to this critical effort. And we remain committed this effort, as we focus intensively on increasing the number of Basotho who know their HIV status and expanding the number of people on life-saving treatment. To make sure our efforts are successful, we need high-quality, reliable data. We need to know how many people are living with HIV, how many of those are on treatment, and how many have viral loads that are suppressed. That information will help us – all of us, working together — track how much progress is being made toward ending the epidemic, and how to target our programs effectively to achieve that goal. And that’s where the PHIA comes in.
As we know, the only way to learn whether you are HIV positive or not is to get tested. Unfortunately, though, not all Basotho know their status, which prevents them from getting treatment that ensures they can live full and healthy lives and will prevent their transmission of the virus to their loved ones.
The PHIA, which we are launching today, will give individuals in more than 10,000 households the opportunity to get tested at home and to find out their status that same day. Those who test positive will be linked to health facilities to begin treatment. PHIA will also provide viral load testing for those who test positive so that they can keep track of the level of the virus in their body. In addition, PHIA will generate HIV data that will help us assess which programs are effective and which ones less so, so that we can make critical programmatic adjustments. The PHIA will also give us information on HIV incidence and prevalence, which will provide a critical baseline from which to measure progress in future surveys. I want to take a moment here to underscore how honored we are that Her Majesty has agreed to be an advocate for the PHIA. Your Majesty, your engagement will play a key role in ensuring the success of this important exercise.
This has been an historic year, one which marked 50 years of independence for Lesotho and 50 years of partnership between the United States and the Mountain Kingdom. During that half-century, Basotho and Americans have achieved some important milestones together, and PEPFAR is one of the most important elements of our partnership. Working together against HIV/AIDS, we are making progress in key areas, but there is still a long way to go to get this epidemic under control. The PHIA, and the critical data that it will produce, will help us get there, and we are proud to support it.