ViiV Healthcare, a global specialist HIV company, announced jointly with its global partners, Vodafone Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies and the United States Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the launch of the Mobilising HIV Identification and Treatment (MHIT) programme in Lesotho.
The MHIT programme is a multi-million dollar three-year commitment led by the Vodafone Foundation through the Vodacom Lesotho Foundation, with financial contributions from the private and public sectors, including funding and community mobilisation expertise from ViiV Healthcare, as well as support from Elton John AIDS Foundation to Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation—Lesotho, ELMA Philanthropies and USAID.
The goal of the MHIT programme is to double the number of children in Lesotho in care and on treatment within three years, thereby ensuring that their health and futures are not compromised or cut short through lack of access to HIV services. It also aims to improve uptake of services that address mother-to-child transmission of HIV to prevent more children from being born with the virus.
The use of mobile technology has proven a successful tool to address some of the challenges around access to healthcare services, such as access to transport, in rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa.(1) In Lesotho, the Vodafone Foundation is building on this success by deploying mobile clinics to rural areas to reach children – including adolescents – and mothers in hard to reach communities, providing primary care services (including antenatal checks and immunisation) and searching for individuals living with HIV to provide them with better access to treatment, using mobile money-based transport vouchers so they can reach clinics or hospitals. For many children and mothers, this could be the first time that primary healthcare services have been accessible to them. In addition, the use of mobile technology enables the management, coordination of services and communications to support the implementation of the programme.
Dr Dominique Limet, CEO ViiV Healthcare, commented: “Through our Positive Action programmes, we have a successful track record in mobilising communities and supporting capacity building at grassroots level to address the challenges of the HIV epidemic. By working with the right partners, we can deliver practical solutions to make a true difference to the lives of children in Lesotho and help future generations live longer and more fulfilling lives.”
Rishaad Tayob, Managing Director, Vodacom Lesotho said: “Vodacom Lesotho Foundation and Vodafone Foundation are bringing money, marketing, management and mobile technology to challenge paediatric HIV. Partnership is critical and by working with private funders and the Government of Lesotho and USAID, we aim to double the number of children on treatment and in care. We are already saving lives. We are privileged to also have the full support of His Majesty the King.”
Lesotho has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS with 23% of the two million population living with HIV.(2, 3) Antiretroviral treatments (ARTs), which suppress the HIV virus and stop its progression, are available, however, only a third of the estimated 19,000 children in Lesotho living with the virus are receiving ARTs.(3, 4, 5) Lesotho is made up mostly of highlands where many of the villages can be reached only on horseback, by foot or light aircraft. This means that resources are scarce and difficult to access by mothers and their children.