27 Sep 2018 09:20am
OMUTHIYA, 27 SEP (NAMPA) The Ambassador of the United States of America to Namibia, Lisa Johnson here on Wednesday launched the DREAMS initiative to help prevent HIV in young women.
DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe young women initiative), is funded by the US government through the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
It is designed for adolescent girls and young women, who, according to Johnson, are more vulnerable when it comes to HIV transmission. The primary target population is those in and out of school, orphans and vulnerable children aged 9-19 and young women aged 20-24. The secondary target population is their male sexual partners aged 20-49.
The project offers services in the Khomas, Oshikoto and Zambezi regions.
Johnson said one common example in Namibia is older men having relationships with young women.
If the older man is HIV-positive, he may infect the young woman and when she then has a relationship with another young man of her own age, she ends up infecting him. In turn, the young man passes the virus on to other young women he has relationships with, explained Johnson.
She said this way of HIV transmission then becomes a vicious cycle, and by offering young, vulnerable women special services that reduce the risk of infection, hopefully this cycle can be broken.
The DREAMS initiative offers programmes beyond traditional health services and addresses risk factors such as school dropouts, social isolation, economic disadvantage and gender-based violence.
One can only achieve their personal or professional dreams when they are healthy and able to finish their education. There are many factors involved, but these two are very important and we have to work together to empower girls and young women so they can unlock their potential to fulfil their dreams, said Johnson.
The DREAMS services are implemented in conjunction with Government through the US Agency for International Development and their partners Project Hope, IntraHealth, Star for Life, Namibia University of Science and Technology, LifeLine/ChildLine and the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA).
NAPPA already established a youth-friendly clinic at Omuthiya and Onandjokwe which Johnson visited the same day.
The clinic provides information and confidential family planning services, pregnancy tests, pap smears, screening for breast and cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections and HIV-testing, pre-exposure prophylaxis and voluntary medical circumcision services.
Oshikoto Governor, Henock Kankoshi said the programme allows young girls to have the right information to help face challenges and make serious decisions about their lives.
As girls approach adolescence, they face the start of a narrow bridge they must cross to emerge at the end as adult young women. However, the bridge through adolescence is a risky one for girls. They are significantly more vulnerable than their male counterparts and are more likely to fall off the bridge, said Kankoshi.
The project is expected to reach nearly 69 000 adolescent girls and young women by September 2019 of which approximately 2 500 are expected to receive pre-exposure prophylaxis and 1 000 receive post-violence care services.
Approximately 21 000 girls and young women with their families may be put on social grants.