Note From the Field: Foundation Gathers in Lesotho, a Kingdom Leading the Way Toward a Generation Free of HIV
Evan Von Leer
October 8, 2010
We at the Foundation are constantly inspired by our colleagues in the field. These men and women work tirelessly on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic. This week in the Kingdom of Lesotho
– a mountainous country of just over two million people in Southern Africa – the source of that inspiration was put on display for all to see.
Senior leaders from the Foundation, including all of our Country Directors, were gathered there for our annual strategy meeting. But we were also there to celebrate the great progress achieved by Lesotho, a trailblazer in the fight to eliminate pediatric HIV and AIDS.
Foundation President and CEO, Chip Lyons, speaks to
Foundation staff and guests at the event commemor-
ating the end of the Call to Action project in Lesotho.
Through the “Call to Action” project in Lesotho
, the Foundation has worked with USAID
and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to reach more than 55,000 pregnant women in the country with HIV counseling and testing services. In five districts, we even achieved 100 percent coverage in health clinics for services to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus.
On Wednesday, we commemorated the conclusion of this groundbreaking project, but also unveiled the mission and objectives for the next era of support for HIV/AIDS services in Lesotho. The Foundation has received funding through USAID for a new five-year project, “Strengthening Clinical Services in Lesotho,” or “SCS” for short.
Through the SCS project, the Foundation will help achieve universal PMTCT coverage in all health facilities in the country by 2011, making Lesotho one of the few African nations to reach this milestone.
Foundation staff and friends were joined by Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng, Lesotho’s minister of Health and Social Welfare, as well as top officials from the U.S. Government and other donors, at an evening to celebrate the past and plan for the future.
A press conference for local and regional journalists, the first of three events, featured comments from Dr. Ramatlapeng; Elizabeth Power, representing the U.S. ambassador and embassy in Lesotho; and Charles Lyons, the Foundation’s president and CEO. The session was moderated by Dr. Leopold Buhendwa, the Foundation’s country director for Lesotho.
Following the press conference, more than 150 guests were invited to view an exhibition of photographs
from the Foundation’s programs around Lesotho. The photos were taken by long-time Foundation friend and photographer Jon Hrusa during a three-day trip around the country last month.
Guests views photographs taken of Foundation-supported
programs in Lesotho.
The exhibit featured the faces of the many children, mothers, fathers, and families we have reached with essential HIV services. It also chronicled the innovative Horse-riding for Health program
, which is using traditional Basotho ponies to reach some of the more isolated communities amid the country’s mountainous terrain.
After enjoying the photographs and the company of friends from around the region, guests were invited into the grand ballroom for the evening’s final event – a dinner and speaking program. Despite Lesotho’s high HIV prevalence rates, all of the guest speakers were enthusiastic about the progress that has already been made in the country. There was also great optimism about the real potential to eliminate new HIV infections in Lesotho’s children in the next few years.
Guests mingled and danced well into the evening, buoyed by the hope for a healthy future for all families throughout the “Kingdom in the Sky.”