Home Stories Mountain Men’s Health: Community Champion Helps Inspire Herdsmen in Lesotho Embrace Change at Africa’s Heights 

Mountain Men’s Health: Community Champion Helps Inspire Herdsmen in Lesotho Embrace Change at Africa’s Heights 

In the remote and rugged landscape of Lesotho, high in the Drakensberg Mountains, 34-year-old herdsman Retsélisitsoe Tséle was out tending his cattle with others from his community in Butha Butha district. As he herded his cattle across the vast plains near the Afriski Resort area, he was met by the RISE (Reaching Impact, Saturation, and Epidemic) Lesotho HIV VMMC (Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision) team from Butha Butha, who happened to pass by while traveling home from an outreach campaign in the district. 

With support from PEPFAR through USAID, the RISE project in Lesotho provides voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) services in all 10 districts in Lesotho, reaching men ages 15 and above with this important biomedical HIV prevention method, along with HIV testing, PrEP, and other HIV prevention services. The RISE team introduced Retsélisitsoe to the benefits of VMMC, emphasizing the role of VMMC in reducing the risk of HIV transmission. As the conversation unfolded, Retsélisitsoe realized the potential impact of this intervention for his community. He saw an opportunity to safeguard his own health and lead by example as well as inspire others to embrace VMMC for HIV prevention. He pledged to spread the word among his fellow herdsmen and talked with the RISE team – including the RISE driver who plays an important role in community mobilization – about planning an outreach to provide VMMC services to herdsmen from his community. 

With the information he learned from the RISE team, Retsélisitsoe helped spread the word about VMMC to his fellow herdsmen. When the outreach team arrived on the March 19, they were met by a crowd of eager herdsmen who had already gathered to receive VMMC services. During the four-day outreach visit, the RISE team used a loudspeaker to mobilize other herdsmen in cattle posts in the surrounding area. RISE’s clinical and demand generation team encouraged the herdsmen to continue mobilizing their peers throughout the campaign. By the last day, 55 herdsmen had undergone VMMC. The outreach campaign was a success, reaching an underserved and hard-to-reach community with HIV prevention services in alignment with WHO and PEPFAR quality standards, and building a community of satisfied clients who have been encouraged to share their stories and become champions for VMMC.  

“I am proud that I have received the VMMC service,  I am even more proud that I have played a role in changing the lives of 55 men, who believed in the importance of this initiative and made the right decision to circumcise,” said Retsélisitsoe in excitement For Retsélisitsoe, his fellow herdsmen and the RISE HIV VMMC team, this journey was an illustration of the power of community driven initiatives that transform Basotho men’s’ lives. 

Jhpiego believes that when women are healthy, families and communities are strong. We won’t rest until all women and their families—no matter where they live—can access the health care they need to pursue happy and productive lives.

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