By Michael Gwarisa in Kadoma
THE National Aids Council (NAC), has castigated local Universities for embarking on expansion projects without considering issues of complimentary health care services for students.
Zimbabwe has over the years seen a number of Universities expanding their operations into other localities owing to increased demand of tertiary education amongst Zimbabweans. The Midlands State University (MSU) opened a new campus in Zvishavane in 2015 and recently another one in Harare as it aims to take its services to various parts of the country.
Addressing Journalists, NAC, DREAMS Director, Mr Masimba Nyamucheta took a swipe at Universities for not prioritizing health care services for young people.
“We are currently lining up an advocacy initiative with senior leadership representing the ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education because we have seen a lot of sprouting of these tertiary institutions. In most cases, these institutions do not have complimentary health services that are being offered in those camps that are being established.
“We are also in the process of printing a new syllabus and leaner materials so that we fast-track the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education,” said Nyamuchena.
DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe girls and women programme.
Meanwhile, NAC is implementing the DREAMS program in six districts which are Mazowe, Makoni, Mutare, Chipinge, Gweru and Bulawayo. The selection of these six districts was informed by relevant data including Zimbabwe Demographic Health Surveys, Zimbabwe National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (ZNASP II 2011 – 2015) PEPFAR COP and Zimbabwe Health Strategy, 2009-2016.
The DREAMS supported districts are Bulawayo, Chipinge, Gweru, Mazowe, Makoni and Mutare. The programme started in October 2015 and is running up to September 2018.
The DREAMS initiative is focused on reducing new HIV infections amongst adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). The AGYW ages 15-24 and a sub-population of vulnerable girls ages 10-14, are receiving a comprehensive ‘layered’ package of services including HIV/GBV prevention, HIV Testing and Counselling Services, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for ages above 18 years, access to family planning, social protection, economic strengthening, parenting and other services to reduce HIV incidence.
The focus of the program is implementing the core packages of interventions which include prevention, treatment and reduction of new infections.
“In terms of the framework that we are using currently, we have said the girls are vulnerable due to many factors. We have also said there are male partners that are involved in driving this epidemic. There are some young men who are dating these young girls at the same time dating older women.
“We are adopting a community centered approach which says, if we address the gaps at individual level, leaving out the family and community, we might not be doing enough. We have empowerment programs in schools and out of school that are meant to reduce to risk of girls,” said Nyamucheta.