Girls Who Dream

Across Kenya, PEPFAR’s DREAMS partnership is helping arm

young women to lead healthy, AIDS-free and safe lives.

Girls Who Dream

Across Kenya, PEPFAR’s DREAMS partnership is helping arm young women to lead healthy, AIDS-free and safe lives.

The DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) partnership aims to reduce new HIV infections and violence among adolescent girls and young women ages 10-24 in 15 sub-saharan countries. Launched in 2014 by the President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), DREAMS provides a comprehensive package of evidence-based interventions focused on prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment. 

By simultaneously improving access to care for young women and increasing their agency, the DREAMS partnership works to ensure they have an AIDS-free, safe future. In Kenya, DREAMS has not only empowered adolescent girls and young women but also profoundly impacted their families and communities. Explore their stories by clicking through the below photos.

“I now do photography as a career since I get jobs and get paid for it.”

“I will never depend on a man for money.”

“DREAMS has transformed me into a salaried, well-respected, and confident young woman.”

“I was able to sit for my national exams and proceed with my nursing course because of DREAMS support.”

“I started my business the moment I met DREAMS.”

“I am now the breadwinner of my family.”

“I consider myself one of the luckiest girls alive.”

“I now act and get paid at KTN and KBC (local TV stations).”

“I can now live AIDS-free.”

“I now make hair locks, get paid and save, and hope to have a salon of my own. Getting involved with DREAMS gave me hope and skills to become independent.”

“I am grateful to be able to afford to buy my medication and earn a living at the same time.”

“Having no skills to take care of yourself and your children is the worst feeling. When my dream of becoming a teacher became true, everyone in my community, including my husband, was very proud.”

“I am now a rice farmer who is independent and can fight for my rights and those of others.”

“I now live in my own house and my sisters are back at school.”

“I was in a place where I could not be seen but I am now visible.”

These profiles are taken from the PEPFAR Kenya “Our Lens Sauti Zetu (Our Voices)” photobook, a compilation of images captured by DREAMS girls, including: Dorcas Akinyi Onyango, Agnes Wanjiru Mugure, Flovian Atieno, Faith Akumu, Francisca Ndinda, Effie Awino, Fatuma Lando, Dorothy Oyuga, Linet Odira, Hellen Atieno.  Text and images from “Our Lens Sauti Zetu (Our Voices)” are used with permission from PEPFAR Kenya. 

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Adolescent girls and young women are at a high risk for sexual violence and HIV

Despite a global decline in new HIV infections, adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in sub-saharan Africa are disproportionately affected by HIV. In fact, the PEPFAR data shows that adolescent girls are up to 14 times more likely to become HIV-infected than their male counterparts. Girls and young women account for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-saharan Africa.

Many factors contribute to AGYW’s vulnerability to HIV, including social isolation, economic disadvantage, discriminatory cultural norms, orphanhood, and school dropout. Additionally, evidence shows that experiencing sexual violence both directly and indrectly increases a girl’s risk of contracting HIV.

Unfortunately, girls throughout sub-Saharan Africa experience high rates of sexual violence. According to the 2019 Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) in Kenya, 16 percent of females experienced sexual violence prior to age 18. However, few female survivors  (41 percent) ever tell anyone and even less (11 percent) actually access post-rape health services, such as taking post-exposure prophylaxis medication (PEP) to prevent HIV infection. 

The data is sobering: Every day, about 1,000 AGYW are infected with HIV. In order to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is critical to focus on creating an AIDS-free future for girls. And in order to create an AIDS-free future for girls, we must focus on ending sexual violence. 


Empowering girls through the DREAMS partnership

Using a holistic approach, the DREAMS partnership works to reduce rates of HIV infection and gender-based violence. Private sector partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and ViiV Healthcare. Since 2014, PEPFAR has invested over $800 million through DREAMS.

Interventions are sensitive to age cohorts (10-14, 15-19, and 20-24 years). According to USAID, the DREAMS multisectoral combination of interventions both prevents and mitigates HIV infections in at-risk populations, as well as using the HIV continuum of care to ensure that girls and young women have access to continued care and treatment services after diagnosis.

Examples of evidence-based DREAMS partnership interventions include:

  • Education subsidies (which allows at-risk girls to return or stay in school)
  • Post-violence care for survivors of gender-based violence, including post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
  • School-based HIV and violence prevention programs
  • Parenting/caregiver programs, including education on how to stop cycles of violence
  • Social protection programs including vocational training, and financial literacy skills


When girls succeed, so do communities

The DREAMS partnership has already had a tremendous impact, with PEPFAR reporting a reduced rate of new HIV diagnoses among AGYW by over 25% in most DREAMS intervention regions. Of note, 85% of these regions showed additional declines in 2018.


In Kenya alone, DREAMS has empowered over 12,252 AGYW to build social capital, networks, and assets that improve their livelihoods and health dimensions and reached 22,719 AGYW with age-appropriate health education that enabled them to make informed decisions about their reproductive health.  They have also provided education subsidies to over 4,138 AGYW to improve their school access, retention, graduation, and transition to the next level of schooling


The numbers showcase how DREAMS is changing the story of HIV in sub-saharan Africa, and how cross-cutting multi-sectoral partnerships can both reduce and prevent HIV and gender-based violence. But the human beings behind these data points tell an even bigger story, revealing the tremendous impact DREAMS has had on helping young women be safe, healthy, and empowered. 

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Explore the stories

Get a glimpse of the people and partnerships that are working every day to prevent violence against children in Kenya and create a safer world for every child.

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Meet 18 individuals working across Kenya to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in their communities.

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See the data on violence against children and youth in Kenya and learn about Kenya's coordinated response across sectors to prevent and respond to violence.

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Read an overview of violence against children and youth in Kenya and the partnerships and people that make progress possible.