News @ JSI

Charlize Theron Visits South Africa Project Site

August 18, 2017

South African Academy Award-winning actress and U.N. Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron and comedian Chelsea Handler surprised a group of girls at HIVSA’s Choma Dreams Café in Kliptown, South Africa. The bright pink shipping-containers-turned digital cafés offer HIV-prevention and social asset-building programs to young women.

The Choma Dreams Cafés are HIVSA-designed safe spaces for young women who have limited opportunities and are the most vulnerable to the spread of HIV in South Africa. The cafes are funded through a PEPFAR DREAMS Innovation Challenge grant and the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP).

The cafés are locations for DREAMS services, which include psycho-social support, life and financial capabilities skills, HIV prevention, skills development and access to internet and other resources. The cafés are Wi-Fi-enabled to give girls access to the internet, and are solar powered, which makes them both self-sustaining and eco-friendly.

In 2013, and HIVSA established the online magazine Choma, which has reached more than  million adolescent girls and young women with HIV-prevention information. In 2016, the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, supported by PEPFAR, CTAOP, and JSI, developed the Choma Dreams Cafés.

The magazine and cafés offer online and offline safe spaces for the DREAMS program, reinforce each other, and support social asset-building to empower young women and reduce the spread of HIV.

Theron says, “I have always had a genuine interest in understanding the challenges South African youth face and what is being done to ensure the next generation can keep themselves safe. Listening to the youth and seeing the amazing work they are doing in their communities inspires me and gives me confidence that the future is bright and that we need to invest more in health and support systems for young people.”

U.S. Ambassador-at-large Global AIDS Coordinator Dr. Deborah L. Birx adds, “Community-based approaches, such as the Choma Dreams Cafés, are helping create safe spaces for vulnerable girls in South Africa. We are deeply committed, including through our DREAMS Innovation Challenge, to building an AIDS-free future for adolescent girls and young women.”

To date, 30 Choma Dreams Cafés have been opened by HIVSA and are intended to taken over by community organizations and schools in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal over the next two months.

DREAMS-IC is a key component of the broader DREAMS partnership, which aims to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women across 10 sub-Saharan African countries by keeping them Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS).

Managed on behalf of PEPFAR by JSI Research & Training Institute Inc., the Innovation Challenge aims to infuse new solutions for addressing the complex needs of adolescent girls and young women. JSI supports 46 of the 55 DREAMS-IC winners.

The total number of people living with HIV in South Africa increased significantly from an estimated 4.3 million in 2002 to 7.1 million by 2016. It was also revealed that approximately one-fifth of South African women who are of reproductive age are HIV-positive.[1]

“AIDS is the leading cause of death among females between the ages of 15 and 49 globally. We hope that we can reverse this trend by continuing to improve support systems, provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, teach the skills needed to overcome daily challenges, and become tomorrow’s leaders. With the right investment, young women and girls in South Africa can and will be able to keep themselves safe from this deadly virus,” Theron concludes.