Harare, 7 December 2016 – The United States and Zimbabwe celebrated the first anniversary of the DREAMS initiative at The Venue in Avondale, Harare today. DREAMS – which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe – is an ambitious two-year partnership to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women by 40 percent in ten sub-Saharan countries, including Zimbabwe. Empowering adolescent girls and young women to protect their health and well-being is critical to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Adolescent girls and young women account for a disproportionately high number of new HIV infections in Zimbabwe and around the world. In Zimbabwe, 62,000 people were infected with HIV last year alone, and nearly 14,000 of those were girls and young women ages 15 to 24. Between the ages of 18 and 24, HIV prevalence for women is two to three times higher than that of men.
Under the DREAMS initiative, adolescent girls and young women are being provided with a core package of services that includes HIV testing, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis, prevention and gender-based violence support, family planning, social protection, educational subsidies, and economic assistance for parents and caregivers of highly vulnerable girls. Empowering adolescent girls and young and strengthening family and community support structures are critical to stopping the spread of HIV. DREAMS also aims to expand access to voluntary medical male circumcision and antiretroviral therapy (ART) to males ages 15 to 29.
The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has provided $38 million dollars for the DREAMS Initiative in Zimbabwe. The initiative is coordinated by the National AIDS Council in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other ministries. USAID is working with seven primary partners to implement DREAMS: Africaid, Family AIDS Caring Trust, Population Services International, Population Services Zimbabwe, Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service, UNICEF, and World Education International. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is supporting a Young Adults Survey to assess the relationships between childhood violence and HIV to inform implementation of DREAMS and programs like it going forward. DREAMS is operating in six districts in Zimbabwe with a high burden of HIV: Bulawayo, Chipinge, Gweru, Makoni, Mazowe, and Mutare.
“The United States is pleased to work with the people of Zimbabwe to prevent new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women,” said U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. “The DREAMS initiative is transforming the lives of young women and girls and giving them hope for a brighter future. We are confident that the DREAMS initiative will continue to accelerate efforts to achieve an AIDS-free generation.”
According to Minister of Health Dr. Pagwesese David Parirenyatwa, Zimbabwe needs to focus on curbing new HIV infections. “We need to close the tap and stem the tide of new HIV infections particularly among adolescents and young women. In respect of this, I wish to acknowledge the DREAMS Initiative that seeks to drive momentum for preventing new HIV infections among adolescents and young women.”
Dr. Tapuwa Magure, Chief Executive Officer for the National AIDS Council, expressed optimism about DREAMS. “As National AIDS Council we are particularly excited with the DREAMS initiative as it brings on board a comprehensive package of services directed at adolescents, particularly girls and young women. This key population remains our window of hope for an HIV free generation. We will in this regard continue to coordinate the response in a manner that will lead to the attainment of the DREAMS objectives.”
The DREAMS initiative is already providing encouraging results. In its first year, PEPFAR support in the six DREAMS districts enabled 385,000 individuals to access HIV prevention and risk reduction information, assessment, and counseling. More than 20,000 highly vulnerable girls received support including assistance to return to or stay in school, psychosocial support, life skills building, vocational training, and assistance to start internal savings groups and small businesses. In addition, 110,000 young women and girls received HIV testing services through DREAMS.
The United States and Zimbabwe will continue to collaborate in the response to HIV and AIDS in the country. PEPFAR has contributed $135 million toward Zimbabwe’s national response to HIV and AIDS in 2016, bringing total U.S. funding for HIV and AIDS to over $650 million since 2006.
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