The Joint UN Team on AIDS convenes its annual planning meeting …
23 September 2021
The UN Joint Team on AIDS in Lesotho held in a retreat in September 2021 to review its progress and achievements and plan for the 2021-2023 biennium.
This meeting gathered against the background of the newly adopted Global AIDs Strategy on HIV and AIDS 2021-2026 and the 2021 UNGA Political Declaration of AIDS which provides a renewed impetus for countries to accelerate progress to end AIDS as a Public Health threat by 2030.
The retreat was officially opened by the Resident Coordinator a.i, Ms Betty Wabunoha. Paying her respects to the Government of Lesotho for its efforts in reducing HIV, Ms Wabunoha noted that the country is on track to achieve the 2025 Global targets towards ending AIDS. She however highlighted that whilst this is commendable progress, the country must continue in its collective efforts to end AIDS, adding that the UN family remains committed to the partnership with the government and communities to achieve this goal. She observed that Covid-19 had negatively affected gains to the HIV response and much more effort will be required to mitigate the continued effects of the pandemic in the more vulnerable geographic areas and populations.
Speaking at the event, the HIV & AIDS Programme Manager in the Ministry of Health Dr Tapiwa Tarumbiswa conveyed appreciation to the UN family for the support extended to the Ministry of health towards the National HIV response. “The Ministry of Health has developed key HIV policies and guidelines that have provided an enabling environment for the health sector HIV response to more robust, client centered and resilient even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” remarked Dr Tapiwa. He noted that despite the country’s commendable progress in surpassing the global 90-90-90 targets, there are critical gaps that may hinder attainment of Lesotho’s attainment of the political declaration to end AIDS by 2030.
These include inequalities that drive the disproportionate HIV burden among young girls and women, LGBTQI, people living with disability, inmates, sex workers and migrants. He called on the Joint UN Team to support leadership and governance of the response; monitor trends and ensure that appropriate and effective policies and strategies are implemented and strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of health to develop comprehensive national strategies so as to implement effective HIV/AIDS activities through out the country, advocatingfor greater political commitment in responding to the epidemic including the mobilization and allocation of adequate resources for HIV/AIDS-related activities.
In her remarks, the Acting Chief Executive of the National AIDS Commission Ms. Mamello Letsie emphasized the statutory role that the NAC plays in coordinating the multisectoral HIV and AIDS. She commended the remarkable progress Lesotho has made but noted that reducing new HIV infections remains a priority that requires the concerted efforts of all stakeholders. Acknowledging the NAC’s role is complex, Ms Mamello reiterated the Commissions commitment to reinvigorating and accelerating the HIV response to ensure the country achieves the even more ambitious targets in the newly released global AIDS Strategy End inequalities End AIDS.
She highlighted the mid-term review of the national HIV strategic plan to be undertaken in the period leading up to the World AIDS Day on 1st of December 2020. She called on the UN’s continued support towards sustainable financing for the HIV response.
Civil society participants present at the meeting emphasized that whilst the new global strategy addresses gender inequalities, it is important that to end AIDS, gender is addressed in all its diversities leaving no one behind. Further, they called upon the UN Joint Team to be more deliberate in its meaningful engagement and inclusion of young people in the HIV response globally and locally.
By the end of the meeting, the participants had revised the 2019 Joint United National Programme of Support on AIDS, aligned to new global commitments in the 2021 Political Declaration to end AIDS, the new Global Strategy: End Inequalities End AIDS Global strategy to End AIDS by 2030, and the national HIV Strategic Plan. The UNAIDS Country Director noted that stakeholders will continue to provide input into the plan that will guide the implementation by the Joint UN Team on AIDS for the next two years, focusing on priority high impact interventions for Lesotho.