Greetings to our supporters!
We are so grateful for your continued commitment to our shared mission of eliminating pediatric AIDS. As you know, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS, and our successes so far would not have been possible without the help of supporters like you. Working at more than 5,600 sites in 15 countries, the Foundation has reached more than 14.7 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies through our innovative program implementation, research and advocacy initiatives.
A CNN camera crew films Potso Seoete and his horse. (Photo: EGPAF)
As we have shared with you previously, Lesotho, a small country landlocked by South Africa, has one of the highest rates of HIV prevalence in the world. Also called "The Kingdom in the Sky," this beautiful country is comprised of 10 districts, many of which are extremely mountainous. Coupled with its complex and difficult landscape, it is incredibly challenging to reach remote communities of children, women, and families in need of HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. As donors, you supported a project designed especially to meet this community’s unique needs: employing couriers to traverse rugged terrain on horseback to transport blood samples and medicines in areas otherwise unreachable.
Since our innovative pony program was featured on an ABC series on global health, our Lesotho pony program has been spotlighted by a variety of media outlets, including a CNN report featuring Potso Seoete, our Foundation pony courier who delivers lifesaving drugs and test results to communities in the rugged highlands of Mokhotlong, Lesotho’s most mountainous district. We would like to share Potso’s story with you:
Potso prepares his Basotho pony for another day's journey. (Photo: Jon Hrusa/EPA)
“My name is Potso, and I’m 30 years old. I live in Mokhotlong District, Lesotho. My village, called Polomiti, is high in the mountains. The nearest town, Mapholaneng, is 30 minutes away on horseback.
The weather in Mokhotlong is very difficult. There is heavy rain in summer and lots of snow in winter. When the weather is bad, it is nearly impossible to travel anywhere by car or motorbike. The only way to get around is on foot or horseback.
Three years ago, I heard that the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was looking for horse owners to ride to and from health clinics in the mountains. The Foundation needed help transporting blood samples from these clinics to the laboratory at Mokhotlong Hospital.
I did not own a horse then, so I saved money and purchased one for M3000 (about $400). I became a rider in the Foundation-supported “Horse-riding for Health” program.
Several days a week, I get up early and prepare my horse, Rooikat, for the journey to Molika-liko Clinic. We leave at 7 a.m. and ride four hours through the mountains. When I arrive at the clinic, the nurse gives me the blood samples drawn that morning, and I put them into an insulated pouch. Many of the samples are collected from patients living with HIV who need to have their blood tested so they can begin taking antiretroviral medications (ARVs). Some are pregnant women who need ARVs to prevent their babies from being born with HIV.
Once I’ve collected the samples, I ride Rooikat down the mountain to the main road, where a motorbike rider is waiting. I give him the samples, and he takes them to the laboratory at Mokhotlong Hospital, which is about 45 minutes away.
Without me and Rooikat, the nurses at Molika-liko Clinic could not draw blood when the weather is bad. The blood samples must reach the laboratory within six hours after they are drawn, and only horse riders can get to the clinic and back during snow and rain. Even during good weather, there aren’t enough trucks and motorbikes available to drive to Molika-liko, which is why I work year-round.
The money I earn through Horse-riding for Health is my only source of income. I use the money to buy food for my wife, my two small children, my wife’s family, and Rooikat.
Being a horse rider also improves my standing in the community. Horses are a very important part of our culture, and owning a horse has earned me increased respect from my friends and neighbors. They help take care of my horse, and I tell them about HIV and the work that the Foundation is doing in Lesotho.
It is good that I’m able to help people who are ill and need ARVs. I’m proud that Rooikat and I are helping to save lives.”
A baby waits with its mother at the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) clinic in Lesotho. (Photo: EGPAF)
Potso is one of four horse riders working for the Foundation in Mokhotlong District. Thanks to the hard work of Potso, his colleagues and to you, our supporters, the Foundation is now reaching 100% of Mokhotlong District’s population with HIV prevention, care, and treatment services!
However, despite this amazing progress in Lesotho, more than 1,000 children around the world are still newly infected with HIV every day. Every single one of these infections is preventable and by working together, we can eliminate pediatric AIDS in Lesotho and around the world. Thank you again for your generous support, and to stay up-to-date with the Foundation’s work, please visit us at pedaids.org.