Project HOPE’s work with PEPFAR began in 2005 in Mozambique and Namibia. Since that time, we expanded our work with PEPFAR programs in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, and Zambia.
Project HOPE began addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa in the 1990s with Swaziland (now Eswatini) and Malawi where Project HOPE helped establish The AIDS Support (TAS) Center and initiated a blood bank. In Malawi, Project HOPE worked with the faith-based community on both prevention and behavioral change and, in 1996, we incorporated HIV prevention education into our reproductive health programs.
When PEPFAR started, the stigma around HIV/AIDS was so high. Death from AIDS complications was all around us. It was paralyzing. PEPFAR’s focus on providing effective antiretroviral drugs has transformed the landscape, enabling people to live longer and healthier lives.
In Namibia, we’ve witnessed remarkable strides over the last 20 years, including achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 treatment targets ahead of the 2020 goal and being on track to attain the 2030 UNAIDS goals ahead of schedule. In Ethiopia, we’ve witnessed significant improvement in minimizing stigma and discrimination, and we are on track to achieve epidemic control.
Members of DREAMS through Project Hope learn how to become electricians
In all our work, Project HOPE has honored the dignity of the beneficiaries we serve and listened to community voices and their needs. While doing so, we have been able to adapt our programs to respond to an evolving epidemic. We have taken the epidemiological evidence and social determinants of health data and translated this into public health programs that serve our partners’ and community’s needs.
Project HOPE’s unique differentiator is that our programs and systems are designed to focus on end-user needs. This approach allows us to prioritize patients and community engagement so that we can create resilient and localized programs that are sustainable and impactful. For example, Project HOPE—by talking through local community members—quickly understood the importance of economic interventions and became one of the first organizations to incorporate economic strengthening into our programming, which allows for a more holistic approach to HIV/AIDS care that is responsive to the unique needs of family and community contexts.
The best part of our job is our teams. What we do is not easy, but our colleagues and partners make the work rewarding and fun through their engagement and willingness to rise up, overcome challenges, and solve problems together. Second are the young people in our programs, such as DREAMS and our OVC projects. When it “clicks” and a young woman recognizes that she is in control, it is deeply rewarding.
In public health, we measure our impact by the hundreds and thousands: hundreds and thousands of infections averted, hundreds and thousands of people treated. When we are able to connect at a human level with the individuals we serve, that is what leaves a lasting impact.
It is immensely rewarding to support PEPFAR—the largest global health initiative focusing on a single disease. PEPFAR has allowed global, regional, and local experts to coalesce and make a difference in fighting the disease that almost took a generation from our parents, children, and communities. PEPFAR has allowed us to dream of something that previously seemed impossible to accomplish in global health.
Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) in the DREAMS program work at sewing machines
In August 2021, members of the U.S. Congress visited the DREAMS program in Windhoek, Namibia. The Congress members were invited to meet with young women from our vocational training program who were hard at work on a construction project for a new housing development. As the young women shared their experiences with the visitors, we saw how visibly moved our guests were, and it was clear that these young women felt seen and respected by our guests. Those are the moments that stay with us and sustain us.
Project HOPE, Namibia
Years as a USAID/PEPFAR Partner: 18