Lesotho First Lady, Her Excellence ‘Maesiah Thabane, officially launched the Free to Shine campaign at a ceremony held at Queen Elizabeth II hospital on November 22, 2018. The First Lady pledged to ensure no more babies born with HIV in Lesotho.
The First Lady of Malawi Professor Gertrude Mutharika also graced the launching ceremony. Professor Mutharika congratulated Her Excellence ‘Maesiah Thabane and the Basotho nation for launching the Free to Shine campaign which has already been launched in Malawi. She commended the health care workers, partners and the First Lady of Lesotho for a good job in providing quality friendly health services to protect mothers and babies from HIV. She said Lesotho and Malawi are now “Free to Shine!”
The Minister of Health Hon. Nkaku Kabi thanked all partners for their tireless support to the Ministry of Health and he particularly acknowledged all partners for supporting the Free to Shine campaign. He said that children and youth are the future of this country and thanked all for joining hands to ensure they Start Free, Stay Free, and AIDS-Free.
The United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator to Lesotho Mr. Salvator Niyonzima, who was also at the launch, commended Lesotho for launching the Free to Shine campaign and affirmed that the UN System will continue to support Lesotho to ensure the next generation is free from HIV.
During the launching ceremony the two First Ladies visited the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) clinic at Queen Elizabeth II hospital to learn about Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services provided to ensure babies are born free from HIV as well as Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) services to ensure that HIV infected babies are diagnosed on time and enrolled on treatment. The delegation proceeded to the adolescent corner where they met adolescent and young mothers with their babies.
The ceremony was attended by partners from the United Nations, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), senior officials from the Ministry of Health and other government ministries and other stakeholders.
The Free to Shine campaign was initially launched by African Organization (AU), Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) and partners in January 2018. The campaign aims to contribute to ending pediatric AIDS by 2030 and keep mothers alive and healthy.
EGPAF is collaborating with other partners to provide technical support to ensure the Free to Shine campaign implementation is successful in Lesotho.