The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, along with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and ViiV Healthcare awarded $85 million to 56 DREAMS Innovation Challenge winners from sub-Saharan Africa, in an effort to reduce new HIV infection in young girls and women.
DREAMS is a $385 million partnership — led by PEPFAR with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and ViiV Healthcare — whose goal is to help girls develop into “Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe women,” according to the PEPFAR website. The 10 DREAMS countries include Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and account for nearly half of all the new HIV infections that occurred among adolescent girls and young women globally in 2014.
The winners include various organizations across these sub-Saharan African countries, who will implement innovative ideas in districts most in need of education-focused resources to reduce new HIV infection. Of the award, $40 million is designed on keeping girls in secondary school, which has shown to reduce vulnerability to HIV infection, according to the release.
“Thousands more adolescent girls and young women will have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams,” Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, MD, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator and U.S. special representative for Global Health Diplomacy, said in the release. “Adolescent girls and young women deserve nothing less, and we are committed to walk with them at every step along the road to an AIDS-free generation.”
South Africa, Kenya and Uganda account for 64% of the winners, according to the release. Among the winners, 23% will strengthen the capacity of local organizations to deliver services, 18% will provide a bridge to employment for adolescent girls and young women, and 9% will apply data to increase the impact of HIV/AIDS interventions.
“Young women and adolescent girls represent the largest population of those affected by new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa,” Paul Stoffels, MD, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in the release. “We need the best ideas and innovation from all around the world to solve HIV’s spread.”
Dominique Limet, MD, CEO of ViiV Healthcare, said it is “crucial” for his company to work with its partners to find solutions.
“When you know that close to 60% of new HIV infections, globally, occur in adolescent girls, it is an obvious decision for us to invest in supporting education and empowerment for girls,” he said. “We are proud to be involved with the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, to support this new important work delivered through community-based projects.”
The DREAMS Innovation Challenge hopes to reduce new HIV infections among young girls and women by 40% in sub-Saharan African countries by the end of 2017, according to the release.