HIV/Aids is a major global public health issue. So far it has claimed over 35 million lives and in 2015 around a million died globally from HIV related causes. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with around 25 million people living with the virus in 2015. Although there is no HIV cure, anti retroviral drugs can manage the risk, and many are able to live productive lives. One of the reasons for the spread of HIV is that it is possible that 46% of people with HIV do not know their status. As well as being educated over the symptoms of AIDS, they need access to HIV testing, diagnosis and treatment.
Dreams Innovation Challenge, from he U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is seeking to use a competition to find new methods of preventing the spread of HIV and educating people over the risks. I really like this way of encouraging innovation. By inviting people to enter the competition, an NGO or firm can have access to many ideas, innovations and solutions that would have taken a lot of time and money for them to create themselves.
The most critical factor in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 is empowering adolescent girls and young women to protect their health, well-being, and pursue their dreams.The DREAMS Partnership knows that traditional approaches are not enough to substantially change the status quo.
The winners of the Dreams Innovation Challenge came up with some wonderful solutions to help the fight agains HIV. From over 800 ideas, submitted from 680 organisations, DREAMS whittled it down to 56 organisations that were selected to implement their solutions across the 10 countries they are active in. Winners showed a great variety of solutions.
One winner, will deploy a “multi-channel HIV/AIDS surveillance platform in Tanzania”. This platform will use mobile tech and GPS to enable the Ministry of Health to monitor real time data. This will enable them to place HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment solutions in the right places at the right time. Using mobile phones in the health sector is a great way of enabling people to get adequate medical attention and quickly.
Moving away from the high tech solutions, Nzeve looks to focus on a vulnerable element of society in Zimbabwe. They will be working with King George VI Bulawayo to ensure adolescent deaf girls understand more about HIV and can protect themselves from infection. Using sign language and drama techniques they will make sure that all girls, including those with impairments, get the knowledge they need to reduce their vulnerability. This method should certainly be rolled out across the continent. There is many people with impairments of disabilities that simply do not receive the information their peers do, and are therefore not safe.
The challenge is not just aimed at knowledge for young girls to make them safer. Their focus 3 is “Linking men to services”. They aim to engage young and adult men to inform them about HIV counselling, testing, treatment and voluntary male circumcision services. By engaging men, they expect a change in attitude and behaviour towards sexual health, including more condom use and less transactional sex.
One way of engaging men will be through sports. Tackle Africa will bring HIV testing, counselling and local voluntary medical male circumcision to the side of sports fields. African football coaches will also be engaged and trained to teach their players about health issues by interweaving the information into football drills. It is an interesting approach, but I wonder how young young groups of footballers will react to it.
A lot of the methods that will be used by the successful applicants will empower women. One, from Mozambique, will support women set up micro-franchising businesses, promoting entrepreneurship, job creation and capacity building. Another will begin a skills building program for 1000 disadvantaged girls. They will learn technical, life and business skills, and will also be taught financial literacy and coding. The aim is to give these girls better employment prospects and therefore the ability to generate income.
Many other award winners are listed. I would have given links to all the above schemes, but it is not clear which organisation has which project.
Outside the DREAMS competition, there are other tech advances in the fight against HIV. One such innovation is a wearable HIV ‘trap‘. This monthly vaginal ring, developed by International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) is currently still in the test phase, but has had considerable success in reducing the HIV rate in participants.
If you know of any other great schemes to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS please let me know by commenting and/or tweeting me @InventiveAfrica. Please also like and share the blog. Also, please share and like the blog.