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DREAMS is helping strengthen girls health and resiliency in Zimbabwe

May 10, 2017

Zimbabwe is working toward eradicating new incidences of HIV by the year 2030. However, prominent Zimbabwean health officials warn that the country will not achieve this goal if they continue to ignore disproportionately affected populations like sex workers, prisoners, and LGBTI identified people. An article recently published by Zimbabwe’s Chronicle newspaper, Zim urged to include key populations in HIV/AIDS fight, cautions against this dangerous erasure and highlights key steps being taken to prevent new infections in vulnerable communities, including World Education’s Bantwana Initiative’s work with young women and sex workers.

The HIV prevalence across Zimbabwe is 13% of the population. In Zimbabwean lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities, however, the number of people living with HIV ranges between 20 and 30 percent. For prisoners, many of whom are men who have sex with men (MSM) with no access to condoms, the percentage of the population with HIV falls anywhere between 30 and 40 percent. In the sex worker community, the infection rate is as high as 60%.

World Education layers DREAMS programming onto existing orphans and vulnerable children programming in Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. DREAMS—standing for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Mentored, and Safe—is an ambitious partnership led by PEPFAR to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10-sub Saharan African countries. The Bantwana Initaitive aims to improve access to education for vulnerable girls and young women and reduce their risk of contracting HIV.

In Zimbabwe, DREAMS works to prevent premature sexual encounters that increase girls’ risk of unplanned pregnancy and HIV infection. These interventions help keep girls in school by preventing HIV transmission and teen pregnancy; 75,000 girls in Zimbabwe drop out of school annually as a result of teenage pregnancy. Through DREAMS, Bantwana is also putting programs in place which allow teen mothers to continue their education.

Because of the alarmingly high prevalence of HIV in sex worker communities, implementing prevention programs for sex workers is of vital importance. In Zimbabwe, the National AIDS Council has created support groups for sex workers to build community and share information. The article in the Chronicle also specifically mentions how Bantwana’s DREAMS programming creates pathways for teenage sex workers to go back to school, which helps reduce HIV prevalence by expanding educational horizons and promoting knowledge about safe sex. If Zimbabwe continues to integrate prevention and care for sex workers and other vulnerable populations, the country will be on track to be free of HIV and AIDS by 2030.

Read the article in the Zimbabwe Chronicle, Zim urged to include key populations in HIV/AIDS fight.

Learn more about the World Education's DREAMS Innovation Challenge programming in Zimbabwe.