The Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT-Zimbabwe) and its partners with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched critical programs worth more than US$54 million to help fight HIV in Manicaland and Masvingo.
By Michael Gwarisa
The programs are Sustaining Prevention, Increasing Access to Care and Empowerment for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (SPACE for OVC) and the DREAMS- Support, Maintain, Advocate, reduce Risk and Transform (SMART) Girls.
Representing the Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mr Pastense Tarondwa, said the launch of the two programs was testimony of the close cooperation between the Zimbabwean government and its bilateral partners to ensure comprehensive support for to orphans, vulnerable children, adolescent girls, young women and their families through tightly woven interventions that leave no one behind.
The USD54 Million investment by the US government will see FACT and its partners, Populations Solutions for Health, Batnwana Zimbabwe, Chrsitian Blind Mission and Pact reaching 57,000 adolescent girls and Young Women (AGYW) in Makoni, Mutare and Chipinge districts under DREAMS programme and 70,000 orphans, vulnerable children and their families in Makoni, Makoni, Mutare, Chipinge and five districts in Masvingo province under SPCAE for OVC program by 2027,” said Mr Tarondwa.
The SPACE for OVC is a follow-on program from a previous OVC project, which reached 172,000 vulnerable children. It expands into Masvingo Province taking on four new districts. It is part of the broader USAID orphans and vulnerable children program worth US$78.8 million which will reach over half a million orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe.
For the next five years, SPACE for OVC will work in high HIV-burden districts, to help communities and local institutions provide a comprehensive set of services to improve the health, nutrition, and psycho-social well-being of HIV-affected and infected children. It will ensure that these children can access HIV prevention, care, and treatment services, as well as prevention of and response to gender-based violence. Furthermore, it will deliver entrepreneurship, employability, and vocational training to caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children to improve families’ economic stability.
Meanwhile, the DREAMS SMART Girls program is a partnership to reduce new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in Zimbabwe. The goal of DREAMS is to help girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe women. DREAMS SMART-Girls has already reached more than 59,000 adolescent girls and young women and SPACE for OVC will reach 70,000 most vulnerable orphans and vulnerable children, in just the first year.
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, Elaine French presided over the launch. She stated: “The United States is grateful to be working with FACT/Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health and Child Care to address these issues. The activities we are highlighting today, and the work we all continue to do, all play a critical role in fighting the HIV epidemic in Zimbabwe.”
The Executive Director for FACT/Zimbabwe,Gertrude Shumba said “Today we celebrate yet another milestone as we launch two projects; DREAMS SMART (Support, Maintain, Advocate, Reduce Risk and Transform) Girls and SPACE (Sustain Prevention and Increase Access to Care and Empowerment) for OVC in Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces with support from the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID to compliment the Government of Zimbabwe’s efforts.”
DREAMS SMART-Girls and SPACE for OVC will complement other programs in Manicaland and Masvingo, which aim to contribute to the realization of the UNAIDS 95-95-95 epidemic control targets. To date 86 percent of People Living with HIV know their status, 97 percent of HIV-positive people are on life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90 percent of those on ART are virally suppressed.
“Through PEPFAR, the United States has contributed over a billion dollars to Zimbabwe in the last 13 years for HIV prevention, care, and treatment services. These programs have been very successful in reducing the number of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe. But, despite this success, there is still more work to be done to control HIV and to make sure that people with HIV can live safely and in dignity hence the launch of SMART Girls and Space for OVC,” Chargé d’Affaires French added.
Overall, these programs will operate in nine districts namely Makoni, Mutare, Chipinge, Buhera, Gutu, Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Chivi and Masvingo. FACT/Zimbabwe has partnered with Population Solutions for Health, Bantwana Zimbabwe, ZAPP Trust, Rujeko Home Based Care Programme, Christoffel-Blindenmission Christian Blind Mission and Pact to meet the objectives of these critical programs.
DREAMS SMART-Girls Objectives include increasing Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) access to high-impact HIV prevention services and activities according to the DREAMS package; strengthening the capacity of families and communities to provide a safe and supportive environment for AGYW; and strengthening systems for planning, coordinating, monitoring and assuring the quality of programs for AGYW.
The SPACE for OVC Objectives seek to nimprove access to HIV care and treatment services for children, adolescents, and youth; strengthen child and family safety skills through improved access to HIV and GBV prevention, GBV response, and child protection services; improve economic stability and educational attainment for vulnerable children and their families; and strengthen local systems for planning, coordinating, monitoring and assuring the quality of services for vulnerable children and their families.