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Lesotho Launches Branded Packaging of Condoms and Lubricants

In an effort to prevent HIV and make condoms more attractive for effective and efficient use, Lesotho recently launched the Branded Packaging of Male and Female Condoms and Lubricants – Plug’n Play. During the launch, challenges facing condom programming in Lesotho which led to the design of the new condom packaging were highlighted. These include insufficient access of condoms for youth, key and vulnerable populations and lubricants not reaching female sex workers, men who have sex with other men as well as the distrust or dislike of female condoms and low uptake despite promotion efforts due to culture and other socio economic reasons.

The HIV/AIDS Manager in the Ministry of Health Dr Tapiwa Tarabiswa pointed out that to address the challenges, the MOH in collaboration with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, Key Populations and Youth Representatives undertook a market survey and analysis on the needs of different groups of people hence the development of a culturally acceptable, attractive and accessible condoms designed to cater for different subgroups within population. “As we launch them today, we believe they will go a long way in supporting the country in efforts to further reduce the incidence of HIV and ultimately end AIDS by 2030,”.

He added that Lesotho has set some key prevention targets including that 90 percent of people aged 15 and over at risk of HIV have access to combination HIV prevention packages and at least 40 Million male condoms and One Million female condoms and the required number of water based lubricants will be distributed by 2023.

On behalf of UNFPA Representative Dr Marc Derveeuw, the Assistant Representative Ms Motselisi Molorane-Moeno highlighted that HIV prevention seems to still be falling into cracks due to more emphasis on HIV treatment as part of the country’s investment case and that the scope of the response has always been inadequate to address the diverse sources and drivers of the epidemic with limited comprehensive combination prevention packages that can make a significant and recognizable dent in the new Infections. As a result, there has been slow progress in the prevention of new infections despite the gains that the country has made.

“This has also been exacerbated by the COVID 19 Pandemic which has now also made us divert some of the attention and financial support to it and not HIV and the lockdown measures that saw some prevention activities being halted especially at community levels. We are afraid we might lose the gains made over the years as we are seeing with the recent LEPHIA preliminary results pointing us in the right direction to have achieved the 90-90-90 targets and also being optimistic to achieving the 95-95-95 targets,” she added.

She applauded the Government of Lesotho for recognizing this oversight by being signatory to the Global Prevention Coalition and further committing to the HIV Prevention 2025 Road Map in the High Level Meeting that was held in June in New York this year.  “By so doing, the Government of Lesotho and all partners have to put emphasis on high impact interventions to be implemented from the national, district and community levels to reduce transmission of new infections,” she further stated.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Director General in the Ministry Dr Nyane Letsie said Lesotho is part of the International HIV Prevention Coalition having endorsed the Global HIV Prevention Road Map- Lesotho 2020 HIV Prevention Road Map and the recent commitment to accelerate HIV prevention and reduce new infections by 75%. She said the high HIV prevalence rate of HIV and AIDS combined with unintended pregnancy poses serious challenges to society and has an adverse impact on the country’s scarce resources.

She also outlined challenges that led to the development and design of the condom branded packages that will be nationally accepted and promote correct and consistent use of condoms and lubricants. In addition, the Director General acknowledged the financial and technical support of UNFPA showing that without it the accomplishment would not have been possible.

A Representative of Key Populations appreciated UNFPA’s involvement of key populations in the product design adding that they anticipate positive results and improved uptake following the new packaging which is inclusive of condoms and lubricants as utilized together they have proven to reduce new infections.

Furthermore, a Representative of adolescents and young people also stated that the consultative processes and the reflection of their ideas on the design made them feel appreciated. “As young people, we are happy with the attractive packaging. We feel that the government is shifting from doing things for us but with us. We recognize that the rate of new HIV infections and unintended pregnancies are high in Lesotho and this endeavor will indeed go a long way in addressing them as they affect our future” she said, and also applauded the Ministry of Health and UNFPA for Plug’n play.

The Correct condom use demonstration was also made during the launch by peer educator working directly with the target populations.