NAHPA works towards Reintroducing DREAMS project Botswana

The National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency in collaboration with PREFAR have started the process to re-introduce the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS Free Mentored Safe (DREAMS) project with a consultation meeting chaired by Project Concern International (PCI) occurred with school heads and collaborating partners.

The DREAMS project aims to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women. The goal is to introduce the intervention to 6 more districts. DREAMS targets the 9-24 age group and so collaboration with schools is important to the initiative. Mentorship of adolescent girls young women on HIV prevention and guidance and counseling is a key part DREAMS initiative.

The DREAMS initiative gets support from USAID. During a debriefing session last week in Gaborone, issues related to the Covid 19 were addressed and how these affected school activities amidst media reports of lockdown, the end of lockdown and the recent reports of active cases in schools.

PCI Senior Programs Officer Motlaleng Motlaleng in interaction with school heads and guidance and counseling teachers noted that there is usually a single guidance and counseling teacher per school and that these guidance and counseling teachers are overwhelmed with no time to adequately investigate various individual cases.

During DREAMS counseling sessions a “safe space” environment is created to encourage sharing, free from judgment. From such interactions the vulnerability risk is unearthed for each student in order to better address specific concerns. DREAMS currently operates in Kweneng East and Gaborone in public schools and some private schools. Stories were shared during the debriefing session that arose from DREAMS community outreach programs that were shocking and concerned incest, rape and other issues of gender based exploitation, particularly during the initial lockdown period.

The debriefing session concluded that facilitators would continue to assist in guidance and counseling and that since most mentors and facilitators are youth, that school children would better engage with them to unearth the truth about sensitive issues. Certain school heads addressed concerns about slow feedback and the low frequency of visits from DREAMS facilitators though it was agreed that more would be done to address the concerns of each school.

Additionally, there was a plan to roll out a program for boys dubbed “Coaching boys into men” that would attempt to do much the same as the original program for girls yet centered more on sports.

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