Football stars are seen as role models by young people and sports is now regarded as a strong channel in bringing about change in societies around the world. So this August, AFAWI launched a campaign at a football tournament in order to reach young people and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, in collaboration with UNAIDS.
UNAIDS has been promoting their work in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS through high-profile football tournaments since 2010 when they launched the World Cup Appeal at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa with the support of 28 World Cup team captains.
The appeal was designed to highlight the need to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and was supported by the UNAIDS ‘Give AIDS the Red Card’ campaign. The reach of this campaign has continued through AFAWI’s collaborations with UNAIDS and our partnership with the Pan-African football tournament, Airtel Rising Stars.
Airtel Rising Stars aims to identify and nurture budding soccer talent amongst boys and girls under 17. In Ghana, competitions were held in all 10 regions to find the six most talented players in Africa to attend a football camp in South Africa where they can showcase their skills to leading scouts, coaches and have an opportunity to improve their football skills.
During the week of competitions, AFAWI and other organizations such as Ghana HIV Network (GHANET) were on site to lead discussions about issues relating to HIV/AIDS with the 400 young footballers that took part, as well as spectators and members of the Ghana Football Association and Airtel and players from the Black Stars including Awudu Issakar and Nii Odartey Lamptey.
Discussions were specifically held around the UNAIDS vision of zero new infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero AIDS discrimination, the basic facts on HIV/AIDS and its prevention, treatment, care and support, prevention of stigmatization and mother-to-child transmission of infection. We were also able to hand out HIV/AIDS facts sheets, condoms, stickers, badges and booklets.
Since young people are key to Ghana’s future socio-economic development, it is essential we improve their knowledge about preventing the spread of HIV. Short questionnaires were carried out before and after the presentations and it was found that knowledge increased dramatically amongst the young people taking part.
After the success of the campaign at the Airtel Rising Stars, we now plan to work with UNAIDS to expand the program to other events across Ghana.