It’s been about a year since JCW launched PEPFAR’s DREAMS initiative; which aims to raise young women who are Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe. And we’re already seeing early signs of the positive impact it’s having.
“DREAMS is targeted at adolescent girls and young women aged 10 to 24. This group is up to 14 times more likely to acquire HIV than their male counterparts,” says JCW DREAMS programme manager, Innocent Mudingo.
DREAMS offers girls a suite of support and services to reduce the risk of HIV, pregnancy and gender-based violence.
“The programme empowers girls to look after themselves, to set goals and lead focused lives. It
emphasises the importance of education to the girl child. The youth in our communities also struggle to access information. They don’t know where to go for services such as HIV testing and family planning. We address this gap by putting them in touch with services such as clinics.”
Innocent has noted an attitude change among girls in the programme.
“Girls are not embarrassed to use condoms or to go to clinics for family planning. One teenage girl, Thandi*, had dropped out of school and was using drugs. But she was referred to detox and now she’s back in school,” said Innocent.
The speed of progress, however, is constrained by challenges that exist, such as drug abuse, poverty, a lack of clinics, over population and poor sanitation.
“While we’re seeing successes on one hand, there are still new HIV infections on the other because of these challenges,” says Innocent.
We believe that with constant and determined efforts, DREAMS will tip the scales in favour of our young women. We thank PEPFAR and its’ private sector partners for bringing DREAMS to our communities.
*Not her real name.