On International AIDS Day we have an opportunity to reflect on the incredible work taking place to tackle this pandemic. Complex issues such as AIDS don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. AIDS spans geographies and cultures with cases being unique and support being bespoke.
In the sport for development space there are a number of organisations that boldly support those that are living with HIV/AIDS, support youth that have lost their families to the disease and to work and educate young girls and boys on its prevention. Laureus’ support of projects in the HIV/AIDS space has been to one end: to reach its eradication.
In the fight against AIDS there are three distinct areas to address: preventing the disease, supporting those living with it, and supporting children that have affected families as a result of AIDS.
Living with AIDS is an unimaginable thing for most people. However, at the end of 2013 the World Health Organisation estimated approximately 35 million people live with the HIV Virus and to date 39 million people have died because of it. Kenya has the fourth-largest HIV epidemic in the world affecting an estimated 1.6 million people.
Sport isn’t the first solution comes to mind, but grassroots sports programmes make take Getting to Zero from impossible to possible. The Mathare Youth Sports Association is taking on the problem in Nairobi. Supporting testing and preventative work, MYSA deliver frontline support and Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to those struggling with the disease in tandem with preventative educational programmes.
On the coastal communities of Kenya, a girls programme called Moving the Goalposts is working to educate communities and protect the futures of young girls. The football programme which works to empower girls also has strong educational components specifically geared towards ensuring these young women protect themselves and protect their young or soon-to-be-born children.
AIDS traverses the continent and so do the programmes that fight it. Head south and in Mozambique, Grupo Desportivo de Manica prioritize educating young children on the effects of HIV. The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho sees Kick4Life use a social enterprise to sustain their unique AIDS-fighting sport for development programmes. The number of programmes supporting this mission is increasing and in places like Mali, a country with the lowest adult literacy levels, Coaching for Hope are using the only language everyone speaks in order to communicate: sport.
The educational fight against AIDS is twofold: prevention by frontline workers and scaling reach by capacity building organisations. To this end, the efforts of Tackle Africa cannot go unnoticed. Specifically focusing on coaches, their ongoing development of a unique football curriculum is deployed by sport for development programmes across the continent. In Africa, football is the common language that piques the interest of young people and ultimately can save lives through these unique programmes.
Taking on AIDS is a collective effort; a continental feat. Waves for Change in South Africa use surfing to create HIV/AIDS peer leaders and educators, OrphanAid gives Ghanaian children orphaned by AIDS the chance to break the cycle of poverty, and COBAP is a community based response to AIDS using football and netball in the rehabilitation process.
Grassroots Soccer, a perfect example of a community-based education programme, gets into hard-to-reach communities through the hook of sports. Sport is a powerful vehicle for change due to its ability to engage a non-traditional audience in the development sector: young males. However, as popularity of sport among women around the world increases, there is game changing work being done for young women as well.
Piloted in India, the Naz Foundation founded the Goals Programme, for adolescent girls. There are more than 600 million adolescent girls living in the developing world and the Goals Programme gets into the most underserved communities to educate girls through a 10-month that includes a health component on AIDS. Successfully building this model in India, with the support of Women Win, it has been replicated in 21 different countries and is affecting the futures of young girls across the planet.
Getting to Zero is no small task.
For some people it is a fight against time and for others it is a fight to protect the future.
With the work being done though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The collective effect is steering us in the right direction. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. However, there is the human resolve and the power of sport and the two of those become an unstoppable force for change.
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