PROSTAR Youth Centres score with Manchester United FC
By Indra Nadchatram
KUALA LUMPUR, 1 December 2007 – The Ministry of Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported PROSTAR Youth Centres in Malaysia’s northern states of Kedah and Perlis have scored a winning goal with world renowned football club, Manchester United FC.
The club which enjoys strong popularity both in Malaysia and around the world recently contributed around RM 500,000 (US$ 150,000) to UNICEF through its “United for UNICEF” partnership to support HIV education activities by six PROSTAR youth centres in Kedah, and one centre in Perlis. The donation was announced by UNICEF at its Youth Forum held in conjunction with World AIDS Day 2007 and the First National AIDS Conference.
The global recognition given to the Youth Centre program was echoed with the launch of the “Best Practices of Youth Peer-to-Peer Education on Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia” by the Ministry of Health’s Deputy Director-General Dato’ Dr. Haji Ramlee bin Haji Rahmat and UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Advisor for AIDS Ms. Wing-Sie Cheng at the Opening of the Youth Forum. The PROSTAR Youth Centre program is amongst the successful HIV education and prevention youth initiatives presented in the booklet.
Keeping the promise to children
In a statement to UNICEF, Manchester United football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo called on all sectors of society to take joint responsibility to protect children and young people from the harm of HIV.
To add flavour to the donation, Ronaldo who was also named the Professional Football Association’s Players' Player of the Year 2007 and Young Player of the Year 2007 recorded a special public service announcement for Malaysia’s youth in support of UNICEF’s Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign. The PSAs will be aired on ASTRO TV beginning 1 December.
Like in most parts of the world, young people in Malaysia account for an increasing number of HIV infections every year. According to the Ministry of Health’s 2006 statistics, more than a third of the country’s HIV infections are amongst young people aged between 13 and 29 years old. Because of denial to test and the time taken for symptoms to develop, most youth diagnosed with HIV before the age of 30 were in all likelihood infected in their early twenties and sometimes even during their teens.
“The environment in which people live profoundly influences their behaviours. Young people who experience family instability, practice other risk behaviours, and have negative peer role models and more likely to engage in early and premarital unsafe sex”, said Dato’ Dr. Haji Ramlee bin Haji Rahmat. “Street youth, displaced and orphaned youth are at particular risk”.
Speaking to young people using their language
According to Ms. Wing-Sie Cheng, every effort must be made to reach out to young people using language and platforms that motivate and inspire them.
“UNICEF’s global experience demonstrates that one of the most effective ways of delivering messages on HIV prevention to youth is through youth. It is for this reason that we believe PSAs from youth celebrities such as Ronaldo is important to our work with young people,” she elaborated. “When the message is conveyed by a trusted young person like Ronaldo, it stays with other young people longer, enabling them to enact it in their lives.”
The one-day UNICEF Youth Forum brought together some one hundred young people ages 16 to 24 from across the country under the banner “Celebrating Youth Leadership in Action”. Representing ten organisations engaged in HIV and AIDS, these leaders debated, sought for solutions and pledged their own personal promises to change the course of the epidemic in Malaysia.
Local celebrities Rina Omar and Xandria Ooi were also on hand to support the Forum, while youth peer educators from AIESEC Malaysia facilitated the discussions to develop a Young People’s HIV and AIDS Agenda for Action.
“Providing young people with opportunities to express leadership is critical. When we engage with young people, we learn about their needs, and together we can find solutions”, added Ms. Cheng. “Young people are innovative. They have the energy, the drive and the commitment to make things happen.”
UNICEF YOUTH FORUM
Organisations represented at the Forum are:
1st National AIDS Conference
World AIDS Day 2007
1 December 2007
Unite against AIDS
• The Malaysian Launch