|Basketball stars join UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot at UNICEF House in New York for the launch of the NBA-UNICEF partnership.|
By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 31 May 2006 – America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) and UNICEF have joined forces in a drive to the basket, supporting the global UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign.
A press conference announcing the partnership at UNICEF headquarters today brought together UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, Nane Annan, NBA Commissioner David Stern and stars of the basketball world.
“Great athletes can be powerful role models, both on the court or playing field and off,” said Ms. Veneman. “Partnering with the NBA’s global outreach initiative, NBA Cares, can help us make the world understand that AIDS is not just affecting adults but is also having a devastating impact on children throughout the world.”
A symbolic moment
Among the NBA players on hand at the event were Philadelphia 76ers centre Samuel Dalembert, Houston Rockets centre Dikembe Mutombo, 11-time NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Bill Russell, NBA Community Ambassador and former New York Knicks forward Jerome Williams and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) legend and Olympic gold medallist Teresa Weatherspoon.
|In front row (left to right): Nane Annan, wife of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman; NBA Commissioner David Stern; UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot and AIDS activist Kimberly Canady.|
Dr. Piot of UNAIDS commented on the timing of the partnership launch. “This is happening in a highly symbolic point in the history of AIDS, as next Monday, it will be 25 years ago that AIDS was described for the first time,” he said.
"It's a global crisis of unprecedented proportions – a crisis that is too complex, too big to put on the shoulders of any single organization, any single individual,” Dr. Piot continued. “And that is why unprecedented partnerships are necessary, and they can really make a difference."
Raising public awareness
To support the global AIDS campaign, the NBA and UNICEF are launching a multilingual, worldwide public service announcement featuring basketball stars. “I think [the PSA] is the best use of the power of sports that I can possibly imagine, and I’m very proud to be associated with it,” said Commissioner Stern.
Produced by NBA Entertainment, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and UNICEF Headquarters, the 30-second PSA features NBA and WNBA players offering disturbing statistics on the impact of AIDS on children – such as the fact that a child is orphaned by the disease every second.
One of the critical goals of the public-awareness campaign is expanding paediatric AIDS treatment. Less than 5 per cent of HIV-positive children who need treatment have access to it. The UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS target is to provide treatment to 80 per cent of children in need by 2010.
Slam dunk for children
At today’s press conference, players spoke about the importance of getting together to call attention to the enormous impact of AIDS on children.
“Are we going to sit down and sit and wait, and let this thing go by? Or are we going to act fast?” asked Mr. Mutombo. “It’s becoming a problem that we all need to solve very fast.”
“Playing the game of basketball is a wonderful thing,” added Ms. Weatherspoon. “But when you’re speaking of the game of life, that’s when we step outside of those four lines. We want you to see us as human beings who care about what’s going on in the world today, and especially our young children.”
Participants agreed that the united efforts of the NBA and UNICEF should prove to be a slam dunk in the fight against AIDS.