By Thandeka Moyo
Magwegwe and Nkulumane suburbs, including the peri-urban Robert Sinyoka Village have been identified as Bulawayo’s HIV hotspots, where the highest numbers of infected juveniles are found.
A programme, Determined, Resilient, Empowered, Aids free, Mentored and Safe Women (Dreams), targeted at promoting behavioural change in adolescents will be implemented in the areas as a counter-measure. Dreams was launched in May this year in Zimbabwe.
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), young women and girls account for 75 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.
National Aids Council (Nac) Bulawayo provincial coordinator Mrs Sinatra Nyathi said the three areas presented the most risk to young women in the city. An HIV and Aids hotspot is a geographical area or location with evidence of high prevalence of HIV, STIs or behaviours that put people at risk of acquiring HIV infection, according to WHO.
Speaking at a Dreams tour yesterday at Eveline High School, Mrs Nyathi said the programme had been effective in reaching out to adolescents.
“Statistics show that adolescents drive most HIV new infections in the country hence the need to target this age group in programming. Dreams aims to reduce the number of new infections among adolescents by 40 percent in 2017,” said Mrs Nyathi.
“The adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 25 and a subpopulation of vulnerable girls aged 10-14 will receive a layered package of services under Dreams which includes access to family planning services, social protection and pre- exposure prophylaxis.”
Mrs Nyathi said economic strengthening, parenting and gender-based violence prevention were also part of the services offered to reduce HIV incidence in young women.
The Eveline Dreams club has started poultry, gardening, arts and craft projects as a way of empowering themselves.
“We decided to take charge of our lives and bring an end to bad reports about Eveline pupils who are known for engaging in all sorts of sexual activities in Bulawayo.
“With Dreams being implemented, we now have a chance to empower ourselves economically and use our spare time on useful things instead of mischief,” said a pupil in a poem presented to the Dream partners and sponsors.
The girls have so far raised money to pay fees for a disadvantaged O-Level candidate and the rest of it goes into buying sanitary wear for needy pupils.
Bulawayo is one of the six areas where the Dreams programme is being implemented and Nac estimates that the city’s HIV prevalence is at 20 percent, above the national average of 15. Chronicle