PEPFAR DREAMS Innovation Challenge

DREAMS is a $385 million public-private partnership, led by PEPFAR and with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare, to scale up interventions and infuse new thinking to keep adolescent girls and young women HIV-free. The DREAMS Innovation Challenge—an $85 million investment funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (Janssen), one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson; and ViiV Healthcare—aims to accelerate progress toward the DREAMS target of achieving a 40 percent reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in the highest-burden areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries by the end of 2017. The DREAMS Innovation Challenge includes a nearly $40 million investment in innovative solutions to keep girls in secondary school, which dramatically reduces their vulnerability to HIV infection. JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. is the Funds Manager for this award.

Adolescent girls and young women represent over 70% of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, but research also demonstrates that each additional year a girl spends in secondary school reduces her likelihood of contracting HIV. LLP’s focus groups have shown that many girls in the libraries' service areas drop out of secondary school due to lack of financial resources and/or are pressured by families, peers, or sexual partners into early marriage or transactional sex as forms of financial support, greatly increasing their risk of contracting HIV. Others face negative familial attitudes that restrict their educational possibilities by requiring them to work, perform household chores, or provide childcare for children/siblings instead of attending school.


LLP’s approach under DREAMS recognizes that keeping girls in school is not enough to prevent HIV; girls’ success requires knowledge and skills and the determination to succeed.  

What we proposed to DREAMS as our “innovation” was the public library – as a uniquely accessible platform for information and service delivery for an otherwise hard-to-reach population.  We knew from our experience that we could help girls overcome the social isolation, economic disadvantage, discriminatory cultural norms, orphanhood, gender-based violence, and school drop-out that all contribute to their vulnerability to HIV.

The DREAMS Innovation Challenge website highlighted this new approach from the library world in their announcement of award winners:   “Public libraries are a unique gateway for linking girls at risk of HIV infection to information and services that empower them to develop life skills, prevent HIV, and stay in school. One Challenge winner in Zambia will establish new mentoring programs in public libraries to tackle discriminatory gender norms, provide health education, and foster girls’ resilience and determination to succeed.”

Through LLP’s public libraries, children and youth of all ages and backgrounds are offered free, confidential access to unbiased sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and referral services. Under DREAMS, LLP has expanded its 4,000+ volume book collections to include a range of high-quality international titles focused on SRH, female leadership, HIV prevention, gender-based violence prevention, and girls’ education. Children and youth also have free access to internet in Lubuto Libraries, with a user-friendly internet portal available to help them locate and access quality online informational resources, including health materials. Staff also provide referrals for many health related questions and interests of Lubuto patrons both male and female.