By Kakunawe Shinana
THE embassy of the United States of America in conjunction with its implementing partners Project Hope, Intrahealth, Star for Life, Namibia University of Science and Technology ,Lifeline –Childline and the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) and Government have initiated a DREAMS project which seeks to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women.
Although Namibia is close to achieving epidemic control in HIV/AIDS transmission, Oshikoto region has been identified as a critical when it comes HIV/Aids transmission and young girls and adolescent women are still the most vulnerable in that region.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson who launched the programme at Omuthiya recently, said the DREAMS program’s ultimate goal is to help young girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids-free, and Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) women.
DREAMS, a custom-made program will initiate ‘Safe Space’ led by mentors whereby young girls will learn modules including life skills and coaching , prevention of sexual gender based violence, HIV prevention, as well as offering comprehensive packages that go beyond traditional health services and address risk factors such as school drop outs, social isolation and economic disadvantage.
“You may ask why we have decided to focus on adolescent girls and young women when HIV affects everyone indeed but research has shown that adolescent girls and young women are especially vulnerable to HIV transmission,” said Johnson.
“One common example in Namibia is when older men have relationships with young women and when these men are HIV positive they infect the young women and these young women in turn end up infecting young boys of their age and these boys pass on the virus to other younger women as well.
“It has become a vicious cycle in which young women are the most vulnerable and by offering them special services such as the DREAMS program we reduce the risk of HIV infections.”
The programme will further offer a full packages services in the Khomas, oshikoto, and Zambezi regions and is expected to reach nearly 69,00 adolescent girls and young women by September of 2019 of which approximately 2,500 are expected to receive pre-exposure prophylaxis and 1,600 receive post violence care services. While a further 21,000 girls and young women with their families may be put on social grant.
Apart from young adolescent girls who are direct beneficiaries the program will also reach sexual male partners of the young women.
Oshikoto region Governor Henock Kankoshi revealed that the program was initiated at the right time as the region has recorded some of the highest rate of HIV amongst adolescent girls.
“Recent NAMPHIA data indicates that the oshikoto region reports some of the highest rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women in the country, launching this project in the region is therefore a step in the right direction,” said Kankoshi.
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