OVER 6 000 sexually-abused and underprivileged adolescent girls and young women in Bulawayo, Chipinge, Gweru, Makoni, Mazowe, and Mutare have benefited from the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) initiative funded by the USAID and coordinated by the National AIDS Council. DREAMS is an ambitious two-year partnership to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women by 40 percent in 10 sub-Saharan countries, including Zimbabwe.
It involves empowering adolescent girls and young women to protect their health and well-being is critical to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Under the DREAMS initiative, adolescent girls and young women are being provided with a core package of services that includes HIV testing, pre and post-exposure prophylaxis, prevention and gender-based violence support, family planning, social protection, educational subsidies, and economic assistance for parents and caregivers of highly vulnerable girls.
Empowering adolescent girls and strengthening family and community support structures are critical to stopping the spread of HIV.
DREAMS also aims to expand access to voluntary medical male circumcision and antiretroviral therapy (ART) to males ages 15 to 29.
The United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has provided $38 million dollars for the DREAMS Initiative in Zimbabwe.
The initiative is coordinated by the National AIDS Council in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other ministries.
DREAMS director, Mr Masimba Nyamuchena, said health seeking behaviours among adolescent girls and young women had improved since the programme was launched in 2015.
In his presentation during a workshop with Parliamentarians in Gweru, Mr Nyamuchena said about 30 percent of young women in Gweru urban, Mutare and Bulawayo were retained in employment to date, after having completed their six-month internships under the DREAMS initiative.
"Anecdotal evidence show that Work Readiness beneficiaries have gone on to be employed elsewhere after internships or started their own small businesses."
Caregivers of Adolescent Girls have reported improved communication between them and their children.
Family planning (FP) uptake has also improved among these AGYW. Previously they had no courage to seek for FP services, to them it was meant for married couples," he said.
Youth Advocacy in Zimbabwe (YAZ) National Director, Mr Tatenda Songore, said 6 000 adolescent girls and young women have benefited from the programme.
"As YAZ we are an implementing partner of the DREAMS initiative. Nationwide we are working with more than 6 000 girls. Is six districts and we are targeting hot spots. We are giving them like skills and job preparation trainings," he said.