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During the 90-minute span of a football match, some 400 young people, aged 15 to 24 years old, around the world will be infected with the HIV virus, some 100 children under the age of 15 will die of AIDS, and another 400 will lose their parents to AIDS.

- UNICEF/HQ97-0244/Jeremy Horner
  In Thailand, a puppet show about the need for AIDS awareness, written, directed and performed by children, is presented to a class.

Of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS, more than a quarter are aged 15-24. Half of all new infections occur in young people. And by 2010, that number is expected to more than double.

Children who lose parents to AIDS are at risk for tremendous psychological distress. Their families may suffer financial hardship, and the children are often forced to drop out of school and work, taking on adult responsibilities at a time when they should be able to learn and play. As they easily fall into poverty, they are likely to suffer from mall-nutrition or illness.

Because young people play an increasing role in the spread of AIDS, UNICEF believes they can also play a major role in the fight against it. To educate young people about HIV/AIDS and to prevent its spread, UNICEF is working with FIFA to use the power of football as a tool in fighting the disease.

Football is the most popular sport in the world, played by hundreds of millions of children. The game can provide an important diversion in an otherwise difficult life. It helps young people fill free time in a productive way and gives them a sense of normalcy. Perhaps more importantly, UNICEF and FIFA hope to use football as a way to educate young people about how AIDS is contracted, how it can be treated and what services are available to those living with it.

UNICEF in the field

UNICEF supports a variety of football programmes aimed at HIV/AIDS education. At half time during the matches, coaches, players and aid workers distribute brochures and information packets and hold discussions on preventing the disease.

In Awassa, Ethiopia, a group of youths has formed the Tabor Wegagen Anti-AIDS Association football club, in which team members distribute HIV/AIDS awareness pamphlets to spectators before each match. Team members are also trained to help persuade other young men and women to change their behavior.

Comvida, an organization supported by UNICEF and the Honduran Ministry of Health, has been conducting theatrical presentations during half times at football matches across Honduras to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The actors play an exhibition football match and use the game to illustrate how HIV passes from one person to another and what people can do to protect themselves.

In Kibera, a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, where one in five people are infected and thousands have already died, leaving some 50,000 orphans behind, UNICEF has begun to help sponsor football games to provide children with a form of recreation. At half time, coaches invite their opponents over for a chat about girls, relationships, safe sex and AIDS.


© UNICEF / Photo taken from the TV spot  The power of football  by Leonardo Ricagni
The issues Did you know...

About 2.7 million children under 15 years old are living with HIV/AIDS.

The players