A Conversation about PEPFAR's DREAMS Partnership Features World Education's Patience Ndlovu
June 8, 2018
On Friday, June 1st, World Education's Patience Ndlovu, the country director for the Bantwana Initiative in Zimbabwe, participated in the Center for Global Development’s event, Fighting HIV by Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women: A Learning Event on PEPFAR’s DREAMS Partnership.
The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) launched the DREAMS program three years ago in an effort to reduce HIV infection rates among adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa. DREAMS improves health care services while addressing systemic factors that increase susceptibility to the virus. The goal of DREAMS is to help girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women.
World Education’s Bantwana Initiative implements DREAMS programs in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mozambique, and Swaziland. As Ndlovu explained, “We [World Education/Bantwana] had always been working with adolescent girls and young women over the years, but I think what DREAMS helped us to do was to really hone in on the most at-risk girls.” In her presentation, Ndlovu explained how DREAMS operates, what sort of experiences the program has had so far, and why she believes the program has been a success.
Ndlovu’s presentation was preceded by Ambassador Deborah L. Birx’s presentation. Ambassador Birx is the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy and has led PEPFAR since 2014. Her presentation focused on the data that was collected for at-risk populations and the impact the program has made.
According to both Ndlovu and Ambassador Birx, that impact has been groundbreaking. The program started in 10 countries and expanded to 15 last year. Its approach of using data to find the girls and women who are the most at risk of contracting HIV allows the offered services to be tailored so they are accessible for them, resulting in a much larger impact. As Ambassador Birx said in her presentation, “In nearly two-thirds of DREAMS districts, new HIV diagnoses are down 25-40% or more among adolescent girls and young women.”
Of course, there have been challenges. Ndlovu highlighted some setbacks, including not retaining girls in the program and the lack of additional support for women whose husbands will not allow them to pursue an education. Despite these setbacks, Ndlovu said she has confidence in DREAMS. “The DREAMS program is no longer just a program to us. It’s now the approach for HIV programming,” Ndlovu said. “I have no doubt that this is the approach that we need for adolescent girls and young women, and I think if we put more investment in reaching more girls using this approach, then and only then can we reach the last mile in ending HIV.”