Lesotho carries one of the highest HIV burdens in the world and the socio-economic and socio-political climates leave women particularly vulnerable to HIV. Women are often left isolated when their husbands leave to seek work, and, on their husbands’ return, may be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Worryingly, maternal death rates in Lesotho are now one of the highest in the world and still increasing at 1,100 per 100,000 live births1,2. Interrupting the transmission of HIV from mother to child is critical in combating the scale of this epidemic. The need to reach out to women has never been more apparent.
The country’s mountainous and rugged terrain also poses several practical obstacles to accessing health services. Individuals often have to endure days of walking to reach any form of healthcare service, a challenge for anyone and for pregnant women in particular. On arrival, the barriers do not subside, as services are often closed or good quality care and treatment are lacking.
“To set the stage, Lesotho is a very small country. It's only about the size of the state of Maryland, but it would take you a lot longer to drive across, it's incredibly mountainous. The whole country is up above 1,500 meters above sea level and so the mountains where we work are really rugged and really difficult places to reach, and so you can imagine that if you live a day's walk or two day's walk from a health facility, it's incredibly difficult to access any kind of care, including HIV testing and HIV follow-up treatment”
— Jennie Riley, Partners in Health
- 1. Mortality Country Fact Sheet. World Health Organisation. 2006. Available at:http://www.who.int/whosis/mort/profiles/mort_afro_lso_lesotho.pdf. Accessed on May 2, 2011
- 2. Lesotho Country Statistics: Maternal mortality ratio, 2005-2009. UNICEF. Available at:http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/lesotho_statistics.html. Accessed on May 2, 2011