After starting to work in Lesotho in June, PIH moved rapidly to implement key components of our model of comprehensive community-based care. We trained dozens of community health workers, scaled up testing and treatment for HIV, provided food to patients and families suffering from hunger and malnutrition and worked to reinforce the public health sector. Highlights of PIH’s work in Lesotho during 2006 included:

Training village health workers: In June 2006, staff from PIH Lesotho led the first village health worker training at the Nohana Health Center, our first clinical site in Lesotho. More than 75 village health workers from the Nohana area participated in the training, which focused on HIV/AIDS care, prevention and treatment. During the following months, additional training sessions were conducted in Nohana, and in October a first round of training was carried out with village health workers in Nkau, another mountain community where PIH plans to start working in 2007.

 Village health worker delivering medications
A village health worker delivers medication to an HIV patient in Lesotho

Providing access to lifesaving treatment for HIV/AIDS: In July 2006, PIH Lesotho started its first 16 AIDS patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the Nohana Health Center. As news of the remarkable recovery of these patients spread throughout the area, the number of people seeking HIV testing or treatment at the Nohana Health Center increased dramatically. Within just six months, more than 170 patients were receiving ART at the Nohana Health Center and over 450 were enrolled in pre-ART care.

Committing to support the public sector: On November 2, 2006, PIH co-founder Dr. Jim Yong Kim flew to Maseru, Lesotho, to meet with the Minister of Health and sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and Partners In Health.  PIH is committed to serving alongside the Ministry of Health in Lesotho to bring community-based primary care and treatment for HIV and tuberculosis to mountainous rural areas.

Delivering food to the hungry in Nohana: On November 16, 2006, a first shipment of food was delivered to Nohana Health Center under an agreement between PIH and the World Food Program that will provide nutritional support to HIV patients and their families.

Improving treatment for tuberculosis and seeking out cases of drug-resistant TB: Testing in Nohana has confirmed high rates of tuberculosis and of HIV-TB coinfection. Although the National Tuberculosis Program offers limited support for diagnosis and treatment, PIH has identified almost 100 active cases of TB, among whom more than 90 percent are coinfected with HIV. Outbreaks of multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB and XDR-TB) in neighboring South Africa raised concern about drug-resistant tuberculosis in Lesotho. In response, PIH Lesotho partnered with the National Tuberculosis Program of Lesotho to conduct a rapid survey of two Lesotho districts bordering the affected region of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, during October and November of 2006.  The survey will provide a snapshot of the extent of MDR-TB and XDR-TB in Lesotho.

[posted January 2007]