Winnie Byanyima, the UNAIDS Executive Director, recently visited the Hakahana Clinic in Katutura, Windhoek, Namibia, where she saw the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) project in action, a project funded by the United States of America. The clinic is a government health facility and a DREAMS participating clinic that has provided health services to 10-24-year-old adolescent girls and young women since September 2020.
Together with the United States Ambassador, Lisa Johnson, and the Executive Director of the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe, Ms Byanyima met with DREAMS girls and community care workers at the facility.
“I am very impressed by the confidence and optimism the young women express as a result of the support they receive through the DREAMS programme,” said Ms Johnson.
The DREAMS project seeks to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in Namibia and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2019, there were 1400 new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years in Namibia-more than double the number of HIV infections among their male peers. It is therefore critical that the HIV response continues to gain momentum.
DREAMS uses a core package of evidence-informed, multisectoral interventions that are proven to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women. This includes empowering them with social protection, safe spaces, education and economic skills and with access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services.
“The knowledge I learnt from DREAMS has taught me about making the right decision. I feel empowered,” said Johanna Shinana, a DREAMS Ambassador.
DREAMS is implemented in five districts in three regions of Namibia and the Hakahana Clinic provides eight safe spaces for young women mostly between the ages of 19 and 24 years.
Ms Byanyima, together with Sheila Roseau, the Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Aina Heita, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization National Programme Officer for HIV/AIDS, and Thomas Ukola, the Deputy Director at the Directorate of Special Programmes within the Ministry of Health and Social Services, also visited the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) clinic, which is also in Katutura.
NAPPA is a welfare organization established in 1996 to complement the Ministry of Health and Social Services to provide sexual and reproductive health services and information to young people aged 15‒24 years and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from the marginalized and underserved area around Katutura.
“I encourage young people to take advantage of the services that are offered for them and encourage others to take up these services,” said Ms Byanyima while she was at the NAPPA clinic.
Ms Byanyima was introduced to the Condomise Campaign at the clinic. The campaign, supported by UNFPA, is led by young people and provides young people with key messages on sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and skills on how to use condoms correctly.
Klaivert Muandingi, the President of the African Youth and Adolescents Network in Namibia, called on young people to be free in accessing condoms and other commodities. “Condomize, do not compromise. Love smart and play safe,” he said.