If you want a vivid picture of what innovation can do to improve people’s lives, look no further than the AIDS epidemic. According to Newsweek’s second cover story of the new millennium, the disease was “cutting through [Africa] like a malevolent scythe.” Now, thanks to innovative treatments and partnerships to increase access and affordability, a diagnosis of HIV is no longer a death sentence. In 2013, the world reached an important tipping point: More people started treatment (2.3 million) than were newly infected (2.1 million). At Johnson & Johnson, we are proud to have contributed to this sea change, and we are hard at work on new technologies, tools and partnerships that will continue to advance the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Despite this progress, we cannot ignore the reality that this disease still devastates. For example, AIDS is already the leading cause of death for women in sub-Saharan Africa, and the trend line is even scarier. Of every 10 African adolescents newly infected with HIV, seven are girls. For a continent whose population is slated to double by 2050, these statistics amount to a call to action. The battle against AIDS is still a battle for the future of Africa, and we still need every ounce of creativity we can muster to win it.
That’s why HIV is one of the focus areas in Johnson & Johnson’s new global public health strategy, and that’s why we’re issuing a call to innovators around the world to share their big ideas about how to stop the spread of AIDS among adolescent girls and young women in 10 African countries and make an AIDS-free generation possible.
Johnson & Johnson is issuing this call as part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Janssen Pharmaceutica, NV, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, and ViiV Healthcare.
The DREAMS Innovation Challenge will award a total of $85 million for innovative, sustainable solutions to six Challenge Focus Areas that will give young women the opportunity to live the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe lives they deserve.
The Challenge will contribute to achieving the DREAMS Partnership's overall goal of cutting HIV rates in adolescent girls by 25 percent in 2016 and 40 percent in 2017. We need an innovation challenge to get these results, because the scale and scope of this crisis is such that we require more bold thinking from more out-of-the-box thinkers. We need to do business as unusual by innovating, and we need the sense of urgency that a challenge generates.
Ending AIDS would be one of the greatest accomplishments in human history. And getting there requires addressing factors and complexities that impact young women in sub-Saharan Africa at a fundamental level so we can help them protect themselves and their families—and make an enduring change for Africa and the world.
Supporting high-impact and evidence-based solutions that can lead to meaningful change for individuals, families and communities are core components of Johnson & Johnson's global public health strategy, which focuses on maternal and child health, extensively drug-resistant and Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV.
The DREAMS Innovation Challenge awards will range from $100,000 to $40 million. Solutions are sought for implementation in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe that address the following focus areas:
• strengthening capacity of communities for service delivery;
• keeping girls in secondary school;
• linking men to services;
• supporting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP);
• providing a bridge to employment; and
• applying data to increase impact.
Winning solutions must demonstrate readiness for rapid implementation in one or more of the 10 DREAMS countries and the ability to show impact within two years with potential for long-lasting change.
Submit your proposal by March 28, 11:59 PM EDT. The DREAMS Partnership expects to announce the winners in mid-July followed by implementation in early fall 2016.
For more information about the Challenge or to apply, visit the DREAMS Innovation Challenge website. Interested applicants may download the Challenge Opportunity Announcement for full details about application requirements and terms and conditions.
Jaak Peeters is head of Johnson & Johnson’s Global Public Health organization.