World AIDS Day: The DREAM program of the Community of Sant’Egidio for 11 African countries
Rome (Agenzia Fides) - Saving the future of Africa by fighting the main cause of death among the continent's adolescents: HIV virus. This is the challenge of the DREAM program of the Community of Sant’ Egidio which, on the occasion of World AIDS Day, which is celebrated on Sunday 1 December, aims to recall what has been done and how much still needs to be done for young people. An activity that DREAM has been pursuing for 18 years, which offers free access to care in 11 African countries, with 49 health centers and 25 molecular biology laboratories. In 2016, 73 percent of new HIV cases among adolescents were in Africa (source: www.avert.org). And it is estimated that by 2030 there will be another 740,000 young people who will contract the virus. To date, half of HIV-positive girls and boys are concentrated in six countries. Five of these belong to the same continent: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania.
The situation in East Africa is particularly serious. And it is from here that the work of DREAM starts. Nearly 6,000 adolescents are currently being treated in the health centers of the DREAM program of Sant’ Egidio. Half of these are in Mozambique, more than 1,000 in Malawi and over 800 in Kenya. In the three states DREAM has three projects, funded by the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development: Malawi? I Care, Mozambique PASS and Together with the Global Fund to end HIV and TB epidemic in Kenya, focusing mainly on adolescents.
Fighting AIDS among adolescents often means acting before they are born. Since 2002 to date, DREAM has ensured that 100,000 children of HIV-positive mothers were born without contracting HIV, offering pregnant women a free and quality service to prevent the transmission of the virus to their children.
And it is these same young women who are one of the most vulnerable groups to HIV. Girls who often live in poverty or suffer violence and do not have the opportunity to protect themselves from HIV.
"Around DREAM centers - concludes Paola Germano, director of DREAM - there are movements of adolescents who have passed the stigma phase and are committed to talking about HIV with healthy peers, in schools and in meeting places. Their contribution to the killing of HIV stigma among young people is invaluable".