There are 34 million people living with HIV in the world. Sixty nine percent of these live in sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 50% of these are unaware they have the virus. HIV not only affects individuals, but their communities. HIV is %100 preventable however social stigma against the disease presents a roadblock to HIV education, testing, and treatment.
Grassroot Soccer works with youths from 12 to 18 years old—the group at greatest risk for contracting HIV. GRS uses the world’s most popular game to provide opportunities for medical education and care. Through soccer, GRS aims to “educate, inspire, mobilize, and stop the spread of HIV.” Founded in Zimbabwe by professional soccer players who wanted to use their status as athletes to help stem the spread of HIV in Africa. GRS uses the power of soccer to promote HIV testing, treatment, and provide medical care and education. Free HIV testing is available at GRS tournaments. Teams get points for how many of their players are tested. Today, Grassroot Soccer has locations in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa. Over 73,000 youth have been screened for HIV through their programs.
GRS uses a novel combination of athletics and instruction to create an open and safe environment to discuss HIV. In one drill called “Risk Field,” players dribble through a series of cones that represent risky behaviors, like unprotected sex. After the drill, they and their coaches discuss what they might do in those situations. “I think the most powerful part of the program is the fact that there is a coach, a powerful role model,” said Chris Barba, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Grassroot Soccer. “These coaches are not celebrities, but members of the players own community, who act as a role models both on and off the field.
For additional information: http://www.grassrootsoccer.org/