At one point, Namibia had the highest HIV prevalence rates globally. In the country, HIV disproportionately impacts young women, with their incidence rates being several times higher than those for men. However, the Namibian government and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) wanted to change the narrative for the country. To help, PEPFAR funded Namibia with $50 million for treatments and resources.
New HIV infections have decreased by 50% since 2004. Namibia now has an estimated 85.4% of viral suppression and 8.3% HIV prevalence, according to a Namibia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (NAMPHIA) report. Through the partnership, the Namibian government and PEPFAR were able to give people DREAMS in Namibia.
DREAMS (the acronym for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) first launched on World AIDS Day 2014 with private sector partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson and ViiV Healthcare. The DREAMS Project works to address leading factors for increased vulnerability in adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) with HIV. The project has created change in 15 countries including Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. By doing so, it has pushed partner governments to renew their commitments to gender equality and the impact on adolescent health and development.
The U.S. Department of State mentioned on World AIDS Day 2020, data showed new HIV diagnoses among AGYW declined in countries implementing DREAMS, with 96% of which had a decline of more than 25% and almost 62% of which decreased by more than 40%.
Of the 15 countries, DREAMS in Namibia officially launched in October 2017. The U.S. Embassy noted the project is focusing on three regions: Khomas, Oshikoto and Zambezi. While the primary target of DREAMS in Namibia are AGYW ages 9-24, orphans and vulnerable children, the male sexual partners aged 20-49 are a part of the targeted population.
DREAMS and Project Hope
The DREAMS project is also partnering with Project HOPE Namibia. Project HOPE similarly works to mitigate the impact of HIV by safeguarding access to quality health care for vulnerable populations. Through the partnership, more than 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children with household services, loans and startup kits for their caregivers.
In partnership with DREAMS in Namibia, Project HOPE empowered more than 20,000 AGYW across Namibia with education on HIV, job skills and financial literacy. Project HOPE also offers clinical support for survivors.
On February 23, First Lady Jill Biden visited Hope Initiative Southern Africa to listen in on the testimonials of those that DREAMS in Namibia increasingly impacted. Among the testimonials, the common theme was that these young women’s voices grew and obtained more opportunities to kick-start their businesses.
Namibia is still fighting against the HIV epidemic. However, DREAMS in Namibia continues to reach the masses of those who are HIV infected by changing one life at a time. The project allows those infected to pursue their dreams.
– Brianna Green