DREAM is a health programme that was set up at the initiative of the Community of Sant’Egidio, in collaboration with the DREAM Foundation, in order to treat and prevent AIDS in Africa. DREAM initially stood for Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition and this expressed the programme’s intention to guarantee the right to health and fight AIDS and malnutrition, but over the years this dream got bigger. Thanks to its effectiveness and the results it has achieved, DREAM has taken on a broader meaning and it now stands for Disease Relief through Excellent and Advanced Means and has become a programme for all round health for Africa.
The origin of the DREAM programme
The DREAM programme started in the late 1990s as a concrete response to an evident injustice, that of the double standard of care between people who live in rich countries and people who live in the Global South. In Europe and in the USA the antiretroviral drugs had made it possible to survive HIV and seropositive people were able to live for a long time and in good health. However, according to the scientific community, the local African governments and the World Health Organization itself, in Africa prevention was considered the only possible way to deal with HIV/AIDS. This approach had apparently very low costs but it was not very scientific and it left millions of people with no access to the treatment that was available in the north of the world.
In the Global South people died within a few months because there was no treatment at all. There were no sick children in the Global North because in almost every case they were not infected by their seropositive mothers. On the other hand, in Africa there were thousands of HIV-positive children. Something had to be done. A group of medical researchers from the Community of Sant’Egidio saw the clearly disastrous healthcare decisions that had been made up to then and hypothesized that if prevention was combined with therapy, this would be the obvious way to reduce infection. This idea, with its solid scientific foundation, was proposed to the Government of Mozambique. This is where DREAM first started advocating for the antiretroviral drugs that were used in the Global North to be imported to the country and for making the administration of the treatment legal.
DREAM has demonstrated its strength from a scientific point of view by using the best technologies available.
By training local health staff, it has been possible to guarantee the continuity and sustainability of the interventions in the medium-long term.
The efficacy of the programme has been demonstrated practically in Africa, with the help of African professionals and the use of therapeutic and diagnostic protocols used in the Global North. Much of DREAM’s success is due to its original combination of academic scientific notions and their practical application on the field.
DREAM’s approach is innovative, it aims to ensure maximum results at a low cost. Everything takes place in small healthcare centres spread out throughout the various African countries where DREAM is present, so that people in rural areas can reach them too. One fundamental point is that everything is offered free of charge. Another point is the understanding that therapy is also in fact a form of prevention because by reducing the viral load the contagiousness of the virus is reduced. If you know you can protect yourself and other people.