ZHI joins the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March 2021. This year’s theme is, “Women in leadership: achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”. As a key player in delivering innovative and sustainable health interventions in Zimbabwe, ZHI endeavors to ensure that women and girls access our client-centered HIV prevention, care, and treatment services in the districts of operation. ZHI currently runs two USAID-funded programs, that is DREAMS and ZHCT. The Determined Resilient AIDS-Free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) project seek to contribute to a reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women aged 10-24 years, in districts with the highest HIV burden in Zimbabwe. The DREAMS partnership delivers a core package of layered, evidence-based interventions that directly address the structural drivers that increase HIV risk, such as gender-based violence (GBV).
The Zimbabwe HIV Care and Treatment (ZHCT) project aims to increase access and availability of HIV services towards the national achievement of the UNAIDS 95-95-95 goals. The project is implemented in nine districts across two provinces in Zimbabwe. The project complements the MOHCC’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the implementation of community- and facility-based interventions. The ZHCT project contributes to accelerating progress towards the achievement of HIV epidemic control by scaling-up integrated, evidence-based interventions in the national HIV prevention, care, and treatment programme, and leverages on the established local partnerships and networks to implement evidence-based and results-oriented strategies that are coupled with a cost-effective implementation plan to improve community-health facility linkages and optimize return on investment.
In the context of COVID-19, ZHI concurs with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s statement that this year’s IWD is like no other due to the pandemic.
As countries and communities start to slowly recover from a devastating pandemic, we have the chance to finally end the exclusion and marginalization of women and girls. But to do that, we need immediate action. Women must have the opportunity to play a full role in shaping the pivotal decisions being made right now as countries respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – choices that will affect the wellbeing of people and the planet for generations to come.
Under the DREAMS programme, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the level of difficulty in supporting adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). The lockdowns have halted momentum on both institution-based and community-based interventions, making layering of services challenging. Lack of harmonisation in the strategies undertaken by different partners to reach AGYW when there are restricted movement and restricted access has exacerbated gaps, and there is a need for stronger linkages between clinical and community partners in implementing DREAMS interventions, as well as clearer synergies with other programs (e.g., USAID’s Food-for-Peace Program) that are tackling root causes of vulnerability in AGYW (e.g., economic vulnerability, food insecurity, violence).
To mark the day and March as a women’s month, ZHI is documenting human interest stories on women and young girls reached through ZHCT and DREAMS programs. For instance, the DREAMS team has joined other DREAMS implementing partners in Mazowe districts to commemorate the IWD. Although Zimbabwe has made major strides in HIV epidemic control, AGYW remain a highly vulnerable, disproportionately affected segment of the population. For instance, adolescent girls aged 15-19 years have an HIV prevalence rate that is 1.8 times higher than their male counterparts.