Since the first case of AIDS in Zimbabwe was identified in 1985, the epidemic has been growing at an alarming rate. Currently, HIV prevalence is stands at 20.8%. The HIV and AIDS epidemic gained momentum in the 1990’s due to decreasing socio-economic wellbeing, and now finds the country at its lowest ability to cope. Zimbabwe records about 3,000 HIV and AIDS related deaths per week, with 761,000 children orphaned by AIDS. Women remain particularly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS because they do not always have the power to determine when, with whom, and in what circumstances they have sex, even when they know or suspect that their partner is HIV positive.
The STAR project is coming against a background where there is a basic fault in the conventional approach that the rural poor, and women in particular, are rarely consulted in development planning and do not actively participate in development activities. Isolated and under-educated, they lack the means to gain access to and control over resources, support services and markets. The lesson is clear: unless the rural poor, including women, are given the means to participate fully in development, they will continue to be excluded from its benefits and rural development efforts will continue to fail.
The project is aimed at giving a voice on HIV and AIDS related issues to the poor and marginalised, putting them on the forefront.
The overall objective of the star project in Zimbabwe is to develop an integrated approach to individual and community empowerment in the face of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe.
- To ensure increased access by 20 communities to information and knowledge on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and rights and other basic rights and freedoms by 2007.
- To increase the capacity of poor and marginalised people, infected and affected by HIV in 20 communities to advocate for their priorities and policy changes, particularly in response to HIV/AIDS (e.g. demanding increased access to testing and affordable treatment).
- To strengthen the capacity of implementing partners and stakeholders implementing the star approach to influence communities to adopt behaviours that effectively reduce HIV spread, challenge prejudice, discrimination, despair and stigma around HIV/AIDS among the community members in 10 communities where the project will be implemented.
- To facilitate participatory documentation and sharing of best practices among beneficiaries, implementing partners and stakeholders.
The project focuses on the areas of prevention, care, support and treatment, using the following strategies. It also focuses on building the capacity of partner organizations including STAR groups in relevant thematic areas of focus. The areas of focus include the Rights Base Approach (RBA), gender and women’s rights & advocacy, basic project management, HIV & AIDS and health services. In addition to this, the STAR project focuses on Mobilising communities to adopt strategies to prevent new HIV infections