The U.S. government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Zambia, brought together 25 young people from Copperbelt, Lusaka and Southern provinces to address condom use among sexually active young people in Zambia. Over a five-day period, 10 teams – selected from over 300 applicants – received coaching from BongoHive, a technology and innovation hub, to refine and pitch their solutions to this challenge. On the final day, a panel of judges selected winning teams to receive cash prizes.
In 2021, over 14,000 adolescents and young people between the ages of 15 and 24 were infected with HIV. That’s over 40% of all new infections in the country. Adolescent girls and young women bear the greatest burden. Consistent and correct use of condoms prevents HIV and sexually transmitted infections, as well as unintended pregnancies.
As PEPFAR celebrates its 20th anniversary of supporting the national HIV response through delivery of prevention and treatment services, PEPFAR Zambia has renewed its commitment to reaching those most affected by HIV, including adolescents and young people. Today over 1.2 million Zambians living with HIV are provided treatment services thanks to PEPFAR Zambia funding, over 90% are virally suppressed, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners. However, to stop HIV as a public health threat, new infections must be stopped. The Condom Innovation Challenge demonstrates PEPFAR Zambia’s commitment to engage adolescents and young people as leaders to overcome persistent HIV prevention and treatment barriers.
The Condom Innovation Challenge showcased the talent, creativity, and passion of young people to address the HIV prevention barriers that face their generation. The winning team, Team Namuka, proposed a private sector approach to market condoms to young people and will use their prize to further refine and launch their solution. The team, represented by Karen Musonda and Naomi Banda of Lusaka, will have the opportunity to see their solution integrated into the PEPFAR-funded Zambia Ending AIDS Campaign, which encourages young people to take control of their sexual health through prevention choices suited to their lifestyles.
Justine Imasiku, a young man from Lusaka who participated in the challenge, spoke to the value of youth participation: “We are the people that are facing these challenges. We are the ones who know why young people don’t use condoms. We need to be the ones to create the solutions to these problems.” A partner in the national HIV response since 2003, PEPFAR Zambia continues to engage young people and other populations in meaningful ways to innovate and end HIV in Zambia.