Mr. Peter Sands, Executive Director of The Global Fund has completed a two-day visit to programmes funded under the 2018-2020 Global Fund HIV grant in Bulawayo and Umguza districts in Zimbabwe. The overall objective of the two-day visit was to showcase The Global Fund supported Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) * and Key Population (KP) programmes.
Addressing media during a press briefing, Mr. Sands noted that Zimbabwe has made significant strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV in the country, however, the rate of infections remains high among adolescent girls and young women, there are still drug resistant cases of TB which people are dying from and there are still a number of people dying from Malaria.
To fully appreciate the impact of the programmes being supported by The Global Fund, Mr. Sands together with officials from the Ministry of Health, PEPFAR, UNDP, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNWOMEN, UNFPA and the National AIDS Council (NAC) were taken on a tour of three projects at Mahlotova Secondary School, the One Stop Centre at Nyamandlovu Hospital and the Men having Sex with Men (MSM) Drop-in Centre run by the Sexual Rights Centre (SRC) in Bulawayo. These initiatives are focused on addressing the barriers hindering AGYW and KPs access to HIV and sexual reproductive health services.
Mahlotova Secondary School in ward 9 of Umguza district is one of the schools benefitting from a DREAMS modified intervention implemented by Plan International with funding from the Global Fund. The programme is focused on reducing new HIV infections among AGYW and is made up of several components including: educational subsidies, comprehensive sexuality education, community parent to child communication sessions , HIV hotspot outreaches and Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention campaigns (SASA!). Since the implementation of the project in 2018, the school pass rate has nearly trebled from 13.16% in 2017 to 34.6% in 2019.
“ Being selected as one of the young girls to receive school fees assistance through the DREAMS modified project changed my life completely. I was given the opportunity to get a high school education which was a dream come true and I am hoping to become a doctor one day” – Bertha*
Other activities targeting AGYW at the school include Sista2Sista clubs. Young girls are being empowered to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and are taught to make reusable pads. In addition to improving the girl’s menstrual hygiene, school attendance has improved as they no longer miss school due to their menstrual cycle.
The Global Fund supported One Stop Centre at the Nyamandlovu hospital is run by the Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The one stop centre provides a comprehensive response to survivors of GBV which includes medical services, psychosocial counselling, ZRP Victim Friendly services and legal services. From January 2019 to date, 199 community members have accessed medical services and 72 have received legal assistance.
“ The One Stop Center provided my granddaughter with the assistance she needed when she was raped by a member of our community. Her medical check-up, police report , legal and counselling services were all provided within 72 hours. She is still undergoing counselling sessions with the centre and has been able to return to school” – Nomsa*
The tour concluded with a trip to the MSM Drop in Centre run by the SRC with support fromThe Global Fund . The SRC is a human rights and key population led organisation working to promote and contribute to the fulfilment of and enjoyment of human and sexual rights of marginalised groups and key populations including lesbians, gays , bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and sex workers.
One of the key services offered by the centre, is counselling services focused on mental wellness, adherence to treatment and behaviour change.
“ In 2019, 150 rights holders (MSM, LGBTI, sex workers and staff members) accessed counselling services at the centre. Issues addressed included self-acceptance, family acceptance, health issues and violent relationships.” Musa, Centre Manager
The support from The Global Fund is complemented by UNFPA in 20 districts and PEPFAR in 6 districts.
*The AGYW programme is focused on raising awareness and facilitating access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls and young women. The programme is utilising safe spaces which the adolescent girls and young women can learn more about their sexual reproductive health, and how to access justice when their rights are or have been violated.