By Patient Sibanda
The Determined Resilient Empowered Aids-Free Mentored Safe (DREAMS) initiative is using sport to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls and young women in the country.
The initiative was officially launched at Nketa Halls grounds in Bulawayo.
“With the HIV and AIDS awareness programme that we are launching, we are looking forward to create a demand for sexual reproductive health services among adolescent and young women between the ages of 10-24 years,” DREAMS Ambassador, Roseli Mtimba, said at the launch.
“We are also looking forward for this programme to be a success in finding talented netball players. We want to empower the girl child through sports”.
There were 19 teams from district level playing soccer and netball as they aimed on raising awareness on HIV and AIDS through sports.
Mable Moyo, Director of Jekesa Pfungwa Vulingqondo, who was the guest of honour said if girls are educated the risk of getting infection will be reduced.
“Zimbabwe has the 6th highest HIV prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa at 13.5% with 1.3 million people living with HIV. Zimbabwe is having 40 000 people infected every year and 50% of these are young people, of this figure two thirds are girls,” Said Moyo.
She said the programme is going to empower adolescent girls and young women so that they adopt health life style and practices that reduce new HIV infections and promote healthy living.
“The epidemics in Zimbabwe is generalised and is largely driven by unprotected heterosexual sex, but there are now growing epidemic among key populations who are at risk of HIV,” said Moyo.
She added that the programme will cover issues on socio-cultural religious barriers that increase vulnerability to HIV and AIDS.
“We want to push higher demand for services and reduce knowledge gaps on issues revolving around sexual reproductive health and rights for adolescent girls and young women in Bulawayo,” said Moyo.
Speaking during the launch, National Aids Council (NAC) Bulawayo Provincial Manager, Sinatra Nyathi said the launch of HIV prevention was meant to increase interaction amongst girls and inform them on issues of HIV and AIDS so that they make well informed decisions.
“We are trying to prevent HIV and AIDS through sports. We are encouraging girls to come out of communities and have access to health services and also information,” said Nyathi.
If they spend more time on sports they use a lot of energy they will be tired and well informed thus less chances of them thinking about engaging in sexual activities”.
She said that in most communities, girls lack empowerment in terms of information as there are few role models.
“We realize that young girls are being inspired by going to South Africa and in such cases they are led into prostitution,” said Nyathi.
“Such activities help girl child open their minds and see what the world is offering. Our aim is on DREAMS- Determined Resilient Empowered Aids-Free Mentored Safe. We do this through information dissemination”.
Bekezela Home Based Care Programmes Manager, Edward Chigodora said sport has positive influence on the girl’s behavior.
“We want to prevent HIV and AIDS and also end gender based violence as well as making sure that girls get access to health services,” Chigodora said.
“We believe that sport has good influence on young people. We are not bringing anything new but we are encouraging young people to access health services”.
Health services that were on offer include family planning, HIV testing services, voluntary medical male circumcision and also information dissemination.