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Community programme curbs STI and HIV/Aids infection rates

It is a targeted, three-pronged community-based HIV prevention programme operating mostly within the Free State’s Lejweleputswa District. Started as a community intervention in a desperate measure to curb sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/Aids in 1996, Lesedi-Lechabile has proven successful in preventing curable STIs in these communities.

Lesedi, which is a Sesotho word meaning ‘light’ and signifying hope, began as a pilot study in Virginia. Harmony, together with Family Health International’s Aids Control and Prevention Project and the South African Institute for Medical Research, designed an HIV prevention programme that would benefit communities with sexual dynamics peculiar to migrant workers. This followed the results of earlier studies in Tanzania which showed that services targeting high-risk groups in mining areas yielded significantly higher reductions in STI and HIV prevalence.

The success of the 1996 pilot project prompted the national and Free State provincial health departments to join as partners in 1998. By July 2002, Lesedi-Lechabile was registered as a section 21 non-profit organisation.

To date, thousands of women, men and youth have been reached with age and gender-appropriate STI, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis prevention messages. These have been delivered by healthcare professionals or trained community-based peer educators through fixed sites, mobile units and outreach community dialogues.

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