Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) account for 67 per cent of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Following this statement, John Snow Inc, financed by the PEPFAR fund, implemented the Dreams Innovation Challenges, which aimed to develop comprehensive approaches to reduce HIV transmission among this population.
The Dreams Innovation Challenges relied on a network of local NGOs, granted to implement projects adapted to AWYG, aiming to strengthen leadership and capacity of communities, keeping girls at school and eventually providing a bridge to employment. In Kenya, Dreams Innovative Challenges pioneered in the use of PREP for the population at risk.
At the end of 2018, I had the opportunity to document the impacts of the Dreams Innovation Challenge in six countries of intervention (Lesotho, Kenya, Mozambique, South-African Republic, Uganda, and Zambia), and to tell the stories of the beneficiaries of Dreams, and to monitor the change of perception regarding HIV in these countries.
Kisumu, Kenya - Winnie discovered she was HIV positive in 2016: « At first, I was always tired, because I stigmatized myself ». When she joined the Premise programme, she also joined the Whatsapp group « I realized I was not alone, we are many, we should not give up, we should not stigma ourselves ».
Lusaka, Zambia - Rachael is nineteen years old, and she is now studying in grade 10. She dropped out of school in 2015 and was staying at home. She had no hope of returning to school and was then helping her aunt cultivating her sugar cane field. In Lusaka, where HIV is very high, lack of future and economic vulnerability are factors which can lead adolescent girl and young women to have “at risks” behaviours, such as HIV infection or early-pregnancy.
Lusaka, Zambia - Early morning, Kebby is testing and counselling Raymond, 24, in a bar situated in the outskirt of Lusaka. Kebby works for “Afya Mzuri”, a local NGO, and aims to drop the HIV affected population in Lusaka by providing testing in bars and clubs.
Lusaka, Zambia - Gershom is animating an awareness session for Adolescent Girls and Young Women in the outskirt of Lusaka, where the percentage of HIV is relatively high. Adolescent girls and young women, aged between 10 to 24, gather and discuss various topics related to GBV & HIV prevention.
Xai-Xai, Mozambqiue - Gertrudes, 18, is an orphan as her mother passed away in 2004, and her father in 2011. She now lives with her cousin and her nephews. Early in 2018, Gertrudes was selected to be Xai-Xai District (Gaza Province, Mozambique) to become a DREAMS Ambassador and peer-educator.
Maseru, Lesotho - Setsibi is checking her stock of bags she recently acquired. Since earlier this year, she was helped by Dreams project to develop her own business. She now imports bags from South Africa, which she sells in Maseru.
Maseru, Lesotho - Maleshoane and Paballo attended training to help them find their first employment. In Lesotho, the huge difference in employment between men and women creates inequality, which can make women more vulnerable.
Maseru, Lesotho - Maleshoane is 23, and she studied electrical installation from Lerotholi Polytechnic, graduating in 2016. She knew about DREAMS from a friend of her. She applied in early 2017, and got a three months’ internship at Afrisam, a company specialized in the distribution of concrete. “We do not stay at home, waiting for older men who give us money and who can also give us HIV”.
Nairobi, Kenya - Dorcas is showing a box of PREP she is storing at her home, in the area of Eastleigh - Nairobi.Dorcas is 42 and comes from Western Kenya. She arrived in Nairobi in 1999 and discovered she was positive ten years ago. Now, she volunteers in the community to prevent the spread of HIV.
Nairobi, Kenya - PREP users are waiting before meeting with a clinician who will do their monthly assessment. The monthly assessment is taking place in the bar called “home pub”, in Kiambio, in the outskirt of Nairobi.
Nairobi, Kenya - When Mercy was told about PREP, she took it lightly “I should not take medicine every day. My friend who took PREP had some difficulties, such as nausea. Then, I realized it would be helpful as if I use it, I will be free from HIV. In the beginning, I had nausea for two weeks.”
Siaya county, Kenya - Joyce and her mother Angeline are weeding heir maize plantation. Joyce and her sister Irene are attending awareness programs at a safe space in their village, where they can learn more about HIV prevention.
Siaya county, Kenya - Phillip Wasonga Luma lives in Nango’C village, in western Kenya with his five daughters. A few years back, one of his daughters was diagnosed HIV positive. Since, he joined the Dreams Innovation Project, helping other parents to make their children aware about HIV.
Nairobi, Kenya - Norine is 21 years old and she lives in Doonholm, with her aunt and her cousins. She lived in Uganda until 2017, where she graduated from high school. She arrived in Kenya in February 2017. “My mum did not have money to support me to continue with my studies. So I came to my aunt (in Nairobi) to look for a job”. She heard about the DREAMS at church, which helped her to find a placement.
Lusaka, Zambia - Ruth Mvula is a grade 12 student and is always impatient to attend a new girls club session. According to her, the girls club session has been very helpful “Before I joined the DREAMS project I used to face challenges from my friends because I was refusing to sleep with old men in exchange for money, hence I was chased from a group because I was not contributing anything.”