National AIDS Commission under severe financial constraints

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By Nicole Tau

National AIDS Commission (NAC) seems to be overlooked by the Prime Minister’s office as well as the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship and the Ministry of Health, as they battle scarcity both in financial and human resources.

This is according to Parliamentary HIV and AIDS Committee Report which was compiled amid COVID-19 crises and concerns following a briefing with NAC on October 15.

NAC highlighted a lack of resources as its main concern, saying that despite working closely with the said Ministries, they often do not get any funds allocated to run programs.

According to the report, NAC often struggles with securing office spaces which tend to be overtaken by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship.

The Committee said that this tussle for offices takes up a lot of NAC’s time which could be spent on actual work.

In addition, the NAC also states that due to financial constraints they have struggled with paying rent which has consequently led to them to slash their monetary compensations or prerequisites by a certain percentage so as to be able to pay for office space.

The Committee recommended that relevant Portfolio Committees together with the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Local Government should attend to NAC’s gripes with urgency.

The committee further said it hopes for smooth operations within NAC.

It is said in the report that among young people aged 15 to 49 years of age, Lesotho has a high HIV prevalence of 23.6 percent and that about 340 000 people are living with HIV of which 61 percent are on treatment.

According to the Report, HIV testing was initially compromised by the COVID-19 lockdown and the strikes undertaken by the Health Workers and was eventually halted.

However, the self-testing kits were distributed even though the demand for them was higher than anticipated.

In addition, NAC pointed out that although HIV treatment was only marginally affected by Health Workers’ strikes, only 63 out of 326 health facilities were affected by the industrial action.

“The launching of the multi-month dispensing strategy was of great benefit as people living with HIV are given between three- and six-months’ supply of ARVs at one visit; thereby avoiding long queues which would compromise social distancing,” the committee said in its report to parliament.

With regards to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, NAC reported that they are yet to compile a current and elaborate statistical report from the Ministry of Police and Health for an appropriate quantification of cases.

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