Non-profit organisation HIVSA has rolled out eight of the planned 40 innovative internet-connected youth hubs, called Choma Dreams Cafés.

Choma Dreams Cafés are intended to provide vulnerable adolescent girls and young women with HIV prevention and social asset building programmes in safe, fun, girl-friendly and new ways.

Ikusasa Lethu Youth Project; Persevere Until Something Happens (PUSH); Sizanani, South African Drug Abuse and AIDS Council (SADAAC); St Joseph Ithuteng; Diakonia Aids Ministry; Tshilidzi, and Humana People to People were the first to receive a Choma Dreams Café to support their work with adolescents and young women.  All are NGOs in Gauteng.

Over the next four months the project will hand over the balance of the 40 Café’s to community organisations and schools in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Due to several socio and economic factors, more than 2,500 women aged 15 to 25 are infected with HIV every week in our country; that is four times more than their male counterparts; * it is clear that existing HIV prevention programmes are failing to reach this group,” said CEO of HIVSA, Jean Armstrong.

“We need to think differently about how to approach and engage these young women to empower them to be the HIV-free future. We believe that the Choma Dreams Cafés will support this objective, which combines the appeal of safe girl friendly spaces with HIV prevention, economic strengthening, the connectivity of an internet café and the resources of a community centre,” continued Armstrong.

The Choma Dreams Cafés are funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) through the DREAMS Innovation Challenge – a component of the DREAMS partnership, which aims to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women across 10 sub-Saharan African countries by the end of 2017. JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. is the Funds Manager for this award.

“Girls and young women in vulnerable communities have limited safe spaces in which to come together,” said Choma Dreams Project Coordinator, Khalo Khwinana. “We need adolescent-friendly spaces like Choma Dreams Cafés to attract and engage them.”

Each Café, which has been modified from a shipping container, is equipped with Chromebook laptops, a mobile WiFi internet connection as well as solar panels, making it both sustainable and eco-friendly.

The Choma Dreams Cafés aim to act as plug-in points for skills development as well as provide support for HIV prevention, and other health programmes.

“We plan to support around 12,000 adolescent girls and young women through Choma Dreams Cafés,” said Armstrong.

“We believe that the Choma Dreams Cafés are the ideal way to reach vulnerable young women in underprivileged communities and to keep them actively engaged in HIV prevention programmes and ultimately remain HIV free,” concluded Armstrong.

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