Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and Aids (LENEPWHA) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) which was formed in 2005 and registered under the Society’s Act of 1966 on the 27th May 2005. LENEPWHA was established for and by people openly living with HIV and was supported by different stakeholders including the government of Lesotho. Before LENEPWHA, stigma and discrimination targeted towards people living with HIV was rife and they could not openly disclose their status. Treatment was not available before 2004 and a lot people were dying. Some people started to organise themselves into groups and met secretly to support each other and discuss issues affecting them. Some organized themselves into groups offering counselling and home-based care for those who were critically ill to nurse them to at least die dignified deaths with at least someone by their side. The District AIDS Task Forces then emerged in the 10 districts.
Even in 2004, when treatment became available in Lesotho, it was still apparent that not everyone who was eligible to access to the treatment, indeed got access to it and the biggest problem was that the drugs were very expensive and those who could not afford them continued to die. The focus then became – how treat everyone and ensure that the drugs are affordable. Over time, people began to form support groups to help each other and talk openly about issues that affect them. It became apparent that there needs to be a mother-body, a network connecting all people living with HIV and AIDS, which addressed their issues. The GIPA principle was then put in place. Then dialogue began between government, stakeholders and organisations such as UNAIDS and SIPPA Lesotho to come with a strategy to establish a single body made up of people living with HIV and AIDS.
The result of these deliberations was the decision to establish this network that we know today as LENEPWHA. Indeed on 27th May 2005, with the support of DFID, LENEPWHA was registered as a non-governmental organisation under the Societies Act No. 20 of 1966 as the mother-body of people living with HIV and AIDS with a mandate to represent, protect and promote the interests and needs of people living with HIV and AIDS in Lesotho. LENEPWHA is mandated to represent, protect and promote the interests and needs of people living with HIV and AIDS in Lesotho. With a membership of over 300 support groups including active and non-active ones, LENEPWHA has been at the forefront of mobilizing people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country and ensuring that they have access to care, treatment and support services. Guided by the principle of greater and meaningful involvement of people living with HIV, LENEPWHA is at the forefront of amplifying the voices of PLHIV in Lesotho with a united front. All these efforts are geared towards ensuring that a person living with HIV and AIDS enjoys full human rights without any form of stigma and discrimination but also championing HIV prevention, care and support.
In order to enhance its performance and achieve its goals in the national response to HIV and AIDS, LENEPWHA reviewed its strategic plan in 2014, which guides the organisation’s work in the period of five years, hence the birth of the LENEPWHA 2014/14 – 2019/20 Strategic Plan. Through this plan LENEPWHA strives to reaffirm its commitment to better serve PLHIV while also working towards the elimination of HIV and AIDS by 2030 in coordination with other stakeholders. It is also important to ensure that there is adequate involvement of PLHIV in the national response in the country and thus LENEPWHA was established in line with the GIPA (greater involvement of PLHIV) principle which specifies the centrality of PLHIVs in the HIV and AIDS response efforts.
Over the years we have partnered with a lot of stakeholders to ensure that we make headway in the response to HIV and AIDS issues.