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National HIV Survey Shows Reduced New Infections and Successful Treatment Program in the Kingdom of Lesotho

Aug 17, 2021 | PHIA News

Maseru, Lesotho, August, 18, 2021On Wednesday, August 18, the Lesotho Ministry of Health announced findings from the Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA 2020) survey. LePHIA 2020 is a household-based national survey that was conducted between December 2019 and March 2020 to measure the status of Lesotho’s national HIV response.

In a country with a population of 2.1 million, the survey found 22.7 percent – approximately 324,000 – of adults (aged 15 years and older) were living with HIV. Among adults, the annual incidence of HIV was 0.45 percent (0.64 percent among women and 0.28 percent among men), corresponding to about 5,000 new infections per year.

According to the survey,  90 percent of adults living with HIV reported awareness of their HIV status (91 percent of women and 88 percent of men);

97 percent who were aware of their HIV-positive status also reported current use of antiretroviral treatment (97 percent of women and 96 percent of men);

92 percent who reported taking antiretroviral treatment had viral load suppression (92 percent of women and 90 percent of men).

As a milestone on the path towards control of the HIV epidemic by 2030, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) set targets that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV would know their HIV status (diagnosed); 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection would receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (on treatment); and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral treatment would have viral load suppression (supressed viral load).

LePHIA 2020 provides evidence of the excellent achievements of Lesotho’s HIV program. It demonstrates that Lesotho has achieved the first of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and has exceeded the second and third 90 targets. These findings position the country well as it aims to achieve the revised and more ambitious UNAIDS targets of 95-95-95 by 2025.

Since the first LePHIA in 2016-17, Lesotho has also achieved substantial progress in reducing HIV incidence by 55 percent among adults (aged 15-59 years). During this period, the proportion of adults living with HIV who were successfully treated – measured by their viral load suppression – increased by 18%.

Despite overall progress in Lesotho’s HIV response, viral load suppression among younger adults remains an area for improvement. In LePHIA 2020, viral load suppression was below 80 percent for adults 35 years and younger and below 70 percent for adults 25 years and younger.

LePHIA 2020 was conducted in 9,665 households and included 16,468 participants aged 15 years and above. The survey offered HIV counseling and testing with immediate return of results, HIV viral load testing, and collected information about the uptake of HIV care and treatment services.

Led by the Government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Health and the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics, LePHIA 2020 was conducted with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and was implemented by ICAP at Columbia University with technical assistance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To access the newly released summary sheet, visit the PHIA Project website.

To read about LePHIA’s contributions to the global HIV response, access the newly released Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (JAIDS) supplement on ‘HIV Population Surveys: Shaping the Global Response.’

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Thabelo Ramatlapeng
Principal Investigator
Ministry of Health Lesotho

Dr. Andrew Peletier
Country Director, CDC Lesotho

Dr. Felix Ndagije
Country Director, ICAP in Lesotho


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