Addressing the ‘triple threat’ of HIV, teenage pregnancies and gender based violence

Project description

Title: Strengthening Girls Rights! Reproductive Health, Family Planning and HIV prevention for learners, especially girls, in Zambia
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Zambia
Lead executing agency: National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council
Overall term: 2020 to 2022

Context

Zambia has a very young population, with more than one third between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. Whilst young people play a crucial role for Zambia’s sustainable social and economic development, they also face high risks of HIV infection, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence (GBV). Young women and girls are disproportionally affected by this “triple threat”. They are twice as likely to be HIV-positive as their male peers and more than 1 in 3 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Moreover, teenage pregnancies are on the rise.

The Government of Zambia has committed to provide comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services to all youth, including through the Eastern Southern Africa (ESA) Commitment. However, parents, teachers, health care workers, religious or traditional leaders are often wary of young people accessing information and services on HIV, family planning or GBV, due to social taboos and discriminatory gender norms. This is compounded by a lack of appropriate tools for and methods for delivering quality CSE and youth-friendly SRH services. 

Objective

Young people, especially young women and girls, are more able to exercise their rights, make use of counselling services and take action for sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention and non-violent gender relations.

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Approach

The Strengthening Girls Rights programme applies a multifaceted approach to ensure that young people have access to quality, youth-friendly information and services for the prevention of HIV, teenage pregnancies and gender based violence. A core aspect of this approach is to further strengthen the policy, institutional and community frameworks that enable young people to exercise their rights.

At the policy level, the programme supports the National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council (NAC) to conduct multisectoral policy dialogues. These aim to remove policy barriers, such as the need for boys and girls aged 16 and below to get parental consent to take an HIV-test. NAC is also supported to strengthen its accountability on Zambia’s progress towards the ESA Commitment.

At the institutional level, the programme supports the integration of the Join-In-Circuit (J-IC) in the education and health sectors. The J-IC is an interactive method that enables young people to discuss and learn about AIDS, love and sexuality in an open atmosphere. It has proven to be a powerful tool for empowering young people with knowledge and skills to protect themselves. To make sure that the J-IC is made available to many more young people, the J-IC will be integrated into trainings for teachers and health care workers. Moreover, an international consultancy firm is contracted to expand the content of the J-IC and adapt it to use in and out of school, with young people as well as their parents.

At the community level, the programme builds the capacities of Provincial and District AIDS Coordinator Advisors (PACAs and DACAs). These advisors play a crucial role in ensuring that the local response to HIV, teenage pregnancies and GBV is multisectoral and youth-friendly. To this end, the national local government training institute will develop an intensive training course for PACAs and DACAs. This is complemented by a web-based exchange platform, which allows for ongoing peer learning and support. Furthermore, PACAs and DACAs will be equipped with J-IC toolkits to coordinate its implementation in their communities and facilitate discussions with religious and traditional leaders to strengthen support for young people's rights.

Results

Several predecessor programmes completed important preparatory work for the current measures. Most importantly, the Multisectoral HIV programme reached 20,000 young people in Southern Province with the J-IC. It also conducted a rigorous evaluation of J-IC, which provided the evidence on its impact and cost-effectiveness. Using this evidence, the current programme has already secured the commitment of key stakeholders to systematically roll-out the J-IC.