The National AIDS Commission (NAC), in partnership with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and Civil Society Organization (CSOs), held a stakeholders’ validation meeting virtually on July 28, 2021.
The objective of the meeting was to table the draft CSOs HIV and TB Priority Charter for adolescents and children for discussions and adoption by CSOs stakeholders.
The charter will guide the CSOs engagement with government and donors with a view to improve their response towards HIV and TB among adolescents and children in the country.
“Today’s meeting marks the final stage of our concerted efforts geared towards the development of the CSO’s Priority Charter for the CSOs working in children and adolescents on TB and HIV and AIDS response.
“Despite Lesotho’s achievement of 90-90-90 targets, the country still lags behind in meeting TB and HIV targets amongst children and adolescents”, said Mosongoa Motseko on behalf of NAC.
She said it is estimated that about 13 000 children aged 0 to 14 years and 306 000 adults above 15 years of age are currently living with HIV in Lesotho.
“Furthermore, it is highly crucial to note that TB case incidence is as high as 611 per 100 000 populations, whilst HIV prevalence is also as high as 25.6% according to LePHIA 2017.” she concluded.
The co-infection of TB and HIV continues to pose challenges of adherence to both anti-tubercular medication and antiretroviral therapy (ART).
ART coverage amongst adolescents and young people remains low, whilst viral load suppression amongst children is sub-standard.
Dr Llang Maama from the Ministry of Health wished the participants a fruitful meeting.
“Today we are witnessing one of the milestones in improving TB and HIV response among the most vulnerable population who are children and adolescents.
“The development of CSOs HIV and TB Priority Charter for children and adolescents will strengthen the continued efforts to address pediatric HIV and childhood TB in Lesotho.
“I would like to applaud NAC for your coordination role, the CSOs for their commitment to make the charter a reality and to the donor PEPFAR for funding the consultant to make this process a reality”, said Dr Maama.
She alluded that despite high Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) coverage globally; the truth is new infections in children persist especially among adolescents and young mothers.
Dr Maam indicated that they still have some pregnant mothers with high viral load and these increase chances of passing the virus to their babies.
“We have children who are born with HIV but have not tested and don’t know their status, and are not on treatment, while other children do not have valid viral load results and some of those with results have high viral load with advanced HIV diseases”, she stated.
TB is particularly difficult to diagnose and manage in children since many do not have access to the most effective tests and child friendly treatments.
Often, children with TB are misdiagnosed and treated for other ailments. Although children are more likely to develop active TB disease when exposed to adults with TB, the World Health Organization (WHO) rarely offers them TB preventive treatment despite the recommendation.
This is especially true for children with compromised immune systems due to young age, malnutrition, or HIV infection.
In order to combat the disease in children, WHO and its partners have come up with strategy to meet the goal of zero TB deaths among children worldwide.
Achieving this goal requires sustained advocacy, greater commitment, mobilization of increased resources and a joint effort by all stakeholders involved in providing health care for children and in TB control.