By Nevson Mpofu .
Harare–Women Organisations on International Women Day, 8 March celebrated the World over made re-affirmative positive responses to HIV and AIDS reduction. They praised in ululation work done by PEPFAR. A number of Women organisations thanked the American people in support to HIV eradication and possibly ‘’AIDS elimination’’ by the introduction of the DREAMS PROJECT.
The acronym DREAMS is a brain-child muted and supported by various HIV and AIDS partner organisations specifically looking at affected girls and women in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region. Celebrating in style, bevy of women from these organisations well appreciated the effort PEPFAR has put across all boundaries to address the scourge. HIV has now slowed down to a steady figure in percentage in girls and women.
‘’Yes, it is great work done by our USA Partner. PEPFAR and other International bodies’ relentlessly still making headway determination and effort to end if not eliminate the scourge.
‘’We are almost breaking to a halt in the fight to end HIV. This is the challenge above all. AIDS, nowadays is just a talk behind bars. The story hangs lightly on HIV.
‘’Thanks to PEPFAR , Johnson and Johnson , Girl-Effect , Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gilead Sciences , VIIV Health Care at International level support . Then United Nations families in the Region , Women HIV and AIDS organisations on our right hand side as we move on in the great fight to achieve goals as a country ‘’, says Mary Sanders , Director of Women and AIDS Support Network .
DREAMS, Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS free, Mentorship and Support for Women targets girls and women who over the past decades have lacked empowerment because of dominant patriarchy. Most of these, nearly 74% were much disadvantaged by new HIV Infections leading to AIDS. The bigger number has been found in rural and marginalised communities due to lack of empowerment.
Zimbabwe Women Coalition Co-Ordinator Sally Dura said the number of women who need support is high because of Gender Based Violence , lack of social inclusion , presents of cultural norms , orphan-hood and school drop-out. Several organisations pushed the Government through lobbying, advocacy, sensitisation and awareness to enforce the Domestic Violence Act of 2009.
‘’We had many challenges caused by domestic violence in marital relationships .Besides , a lot of sexual abuses exposed young girls to HIV , thereby increasing the intensity of HIV . The partnership goes deeper and deeper in reducing poverty, vulnerability, gender-inequality and lack of education in the Region.
‘’Since then, we had a siesta in the whole issue after the passing of the then Domestic Violence Act Law in 2009. Still we had to fight the battle on and on to curb further abuses, sweep clean on several abuses which exposed girls and women to HIV.’’
‘’The battle rages on’’ , Ekeniah Chifamba of Shamwari YeMwanasikana bounces in the interview circle. She points out that the Age of consent of 16 years helped in reducing sexual abuses in young girls. These, she kicks on, are protected by the Law because it is unlawful to engage in sex with girls below 16 years.
‘’The move made it easier for organisations to manage girl-child sexual abuses which if ignored exposes girls and women to severe sexual abuses and rape . Girls, women suffer cervical cancer, obstetric fistula and fail achievements in life.
‘’The Age of consent limited the age at which girls must be in sex activities. It means then, any form of sexual abuse below the age would constitute of a crime to the perpetrator in this respect the male partner’’, she said.
According to Zimbabwe‘s Law of the Age of Majority, 18 years is the boundary of the child and early parentage. Several women interviewed reiterated on the need to raise the age of consent to 16 years.
PEPFAR has played a huge role by supporting financially, initiating free HIV and AIDS centres and decentralising programs throughout the country. Many people got tested, counselled and mentored at testing centres in towns, rural communities, farm and mining centres free of charge. Those who tested HIV positive got free drugs at the spot.
Women organisations conceded, this helped to reduce the spread in girls and women. HIV progresses to AIDS, but now the prevalence of HIV has decreased in many countries in the region. Sub Saharan Africa has the highest incidence and prevalence rate because of HIV 1. However, the progression of HIV to AIDS has decreased so low because of ARVs introduction ranging from Nucleoside Reverse Transcript Inhibitors to Proteases Inhibitors. The country is yet to get Fusion and CCR5 Delta 32.
DREAMS is in Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 2015 Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for half new Infections in girls and women. PEPFAR, USA President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is geared towards Working together for AIDS free future for Girls and Women.