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The Role Sports Has Played in Fighting HIV/AIDS

As the world marks World AIDS day, we take a look at the role sports has played in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS.

By far, sport is unifying and one of the most influential activities as it is a popular one. It has inspired many who grow up watching one of their own rise up the ranks. A story of idolization, it has become a tale of how a new kid on the block, full of admiration for a superior sports personality, sets out to pave an equally impactful path.

But like other groups, sport is just as susceptible to HIV. It affects one’s ability to perform, hindering one’s chances of pursuing a professional career or having a safe sense of belonging.

How has sport molded the hero-complexion to help Africa fight one of its most devastating demons?

A 2011 publication stated that,[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “…fewer than 40 percent of young people have basic information about the disease and possibly as many as 40 percent of persons carrying the virus are aware of their condition, a major actor encouraging the further spread of the disease.”[/perfectpullquote]

Hosting the World Cup in 2010, opened a portal to tackle the issues involving the serious effects of the virus in Africa. A team of top South African sportsmen along with international sports stars, lent their voices to a campaign that promotes HIV prevention and relegates violence against women and children.

Football for an HIV-Free Generation (F4) was also created to coincide with the 2010 tournament hosted by South Africa.

Successful sport-related programs were implemented to help gather communities and easily afford them services on HIV/AIDS. Tournaments are organized to gather communities in a strategy to empower and raise awareness of the disease and change lives.

Kick4Life, Footballers For Life, Kicking AIDS Out!, streetfootballworld, Right to Play, Mathare Youth Sports Association, Play Soccer, are among the many organizations in Africa using sport activities as an eradication tool.

In 2007, Algeria speared headed HIV prevention through AIDS-Algerie, at the All Africa games hosted by the North Africans in July. Athletes in attendance showed their support and dedication in helping to fight the killer-disease.

Ivorian Judo champion Camara Mangue said, “I would like to call for all generations to face up to AIDS – it’s everybody’s issue.”

Namibian boxer Tobias also said, “The world must unite and fight AIDS.”

Sports builds a disciplined and committed character easily transferable to the other day-to-day activities. Ethan Zohn, a former Zimbabwe professional footballer and a winner on the televised “Survivor Africa” formed Grassroot Soccer -an international sport for development program based in Zambia and South Africa that implemented a soccer and HIV/AIDS education program.

It’s objective, to unite former professional players into pushing the world soccer community to lend a hand in the fight against HIV. A study carried out with Grassroot Soccer discovered that players through sports, expressed better resilience.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”a resilient youth is less likely to engage in risky behavior, more likely to avoid HIV infection and more likely to live a healthy life.”[/perfectpullquote]

There were also agreements in the pipeline to use sport as an effective ambassador to help teach the rest of Africa and the world about prevention and reduce the stigma associated with the disease.

In 2004, the International Federation and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies made plans to set up an agreement with International Olympic Committee (IOC) to encourage the use of sport as a key tool in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Suggestions were made for the National Olympic Committees (NOC) and Red Cross Societies to create opportunities at national level for Olympic Youth camps and other sporting activities, to address the problem with emphasis on special days such as the World AIDS day.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”…. sport can play a very important role in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Since sports personalities are role models, we can utilize that relationship to spread HIV/AIDS messages to the people in Southern Africa region,” [/perfectpullquote]

Patricia Nyabadza, the Federation’s regional HIV/AIDS program officer said in one of her quotes.

Over 30 million people are affected worldwide but more than 60% of the victims are from sub-Sahara Africa. Southern Africa has been a region hardest-hit by the pandemic.

There are numerous problems linked with the spread and prevention of HIV/AIDS, an indication of the challenges faced. Several strategies have been employed in an attempt to combat the virus which is why the role of sports in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS is just as important.

The contribution of sports has gained numerous recognitions and may play a vital role in mitigating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially with a very recent “newly developed experimental vaccine” launched in a series of clinical trials, in South Africa.


Featured Photo: The Grassroot Project has helped transform HIV-affected communities using sports (THE HUFFINGTON POST)

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