How DREAMS programme reduces HIV/AIDS infections in adolescents

A SIZABLE number of girls and young women in Mbarali District of Mbeya Region are all smiles, thanks to the US Government’s efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS and empower them economically through the DREAMS programme.

The DREAMS is short form for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe.

Mbarali District in Mbeya, one of the regions hard hit by HIV for years, was identified by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and is up to now getting huge support in establishing economic activities so that they are not dependent or vulnerable to Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

While 62 girls have graduated from DREAMS’ Vocational Workshops, there are currently other 34 girls undergoing training in different skills.

So far, more than 75,000 girls have been reached in different communities under PEPFAR funding through the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and implemented by the Henry Jackson Foundation Military Research International (HJFMRI) in the Northern Highlands regions.

The girls and young women benefit from skills on tailoring, embroidery, batik making, hair dressing, agricultural activities, soap and shampoo making and others.

Ms Anusiata Mwamengo, the Tumaini Community Services Organisation DREAMS Coordinator in Igurusi said they cover 20 wards, with girls aged from 15 to 24 years, instilling in them the necessary skills, but also raising awareness about GBV acts, HIV/AIDS.

She said the girls got to know about safe sex, those who suffer from sexually transmitted diseases got treatment and counselling and those subjected to GBV were also well attended.

DREAMS seeks to reduce HIV/AIDS through different means – behavioral change, right systems and medications.

The DREAMS partnership is an ambitious public-private partnership aimed at reducing rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women in the highest HIV burden countries. DREAMS was announced on World AIDS Day 2014.

One of beneficiaries of DREAMS are Ms Neema Mwakyusa (22) who had dropped out of school at class five and was subjected to GBV acts and after long suffering she was identified by DREAMS, then started training in tailoring and also got loans to initiate agricultural activities on a 1.5 hectare.

Others are Ms Junnes Mwaisika (18), Ms Clovetha Mathias (19) who both practice tailoring and sell grain to support their lives and families.

They thanked PEPFAR, US Government and all stakeholders for saving them from contracting HIV and supporting them economically.

Adolescent girls and young women account for 74 per cent of new HIV infections among all adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa and nearly 1,000 are infected with HIV every day. Social isolation, poverty, discriminatory cultural norms, orphanhood, gender-based violence, and inadequate schooling all contribute to their vulnerability to HIV and a life not lived to its full potential.

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