World AIDS Day has come and gone once again. And once again, some big initiatives were announced. One of the largest is focused on AIDS prevention among girls and young women, with the Gates Foundation and the Nike Foundation teaming up with the U.S. government.
The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced the newly formed $210 million effort as the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe lives, or DREAMS partnership. One of the initiative’s goals is to tackle the factors contributing to the disproportionate infections of girls and women with HIV/AIDS. Though similar programs have made progress over the years, the HIV/AIDS scale has yet to tip significantly in favor of girls and young women. According to Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, nearly 60 percent of new HIV cases among those aged 15 to 24 are adolescent girls and young women.
The DREAMS partnership is looking to take a multi-pronged approach to HIV/AIDS education and interventions in up to 10 countries with high HIV/AIDS rates. The hope here is to dramatically reduce the number of HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in those selected countries, which have yet to be announced.
Each of the partners have a specific role to play in the DREAMS partnership, with the biggest lift coming from PEPFAR. With its $180 million contribution, PEPFAR will focus its energies on female empowerment by improving access to education, healthcare, rights, safety and economic opportunities for vulnerable girls and young women.
Additional programs offered by PEPFAR will include gender-based violence prevention, adolescent-friendly healthcare services, HIV testing, post-rape care, and parent/caregiver programs to help strengthen families and communities. PEPFARs female empowerment angle is in lockstep with the Gates Foundation’s commitment to the same cause.
For its part, the Gates Foundation will contribute up to $25 million to support program implementation and evaluation. Evaluating which programs work and which don’t is an important piece of the puzzle, considering that similarly structured efforts in the past haven’t made as much progress as PEPFAR and other AIDS organizations had hoped. The Gates Foundation will also help with accelerating and scaling up PEPFARs HIV/AIDS programs.
Female empowerment is also at the center of the Nike Foundation’s global attention. The foundation considers adolescent girls as “…the greatest unrealized source of human potential in the world today.” Nike will contribute $5 million toward DREAMS and lend its expertise in girl-centered program design and approaches.
Though the countries that will be the target of the DREAMS partnership have not been announced, Melinda Gates made a comment that sheds some light on a region that is most likely to be an area of focus: "This partnership will advance our shared goal of getting life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services to the women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa who need them most," she said.
Then again, the statistics also lead in this direction as well, with 80 percent of women ages 15 to 24 living with HIV/AIDS being located in sub-Saharan Africa.