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United for UNICEF: Manchester United defend rights of vulnerable children

© UNICEF/Malaysia/2009/Mohan
UNICEF Ambassador Ryan Giggs from Manchester United learns more about the dreams and aspirations of Didi, a young refugee girl from Myanmar. Says Didi, "When I grow up I want to help poor people because many people, even strangers, help my family now."

Premier League champions kick off their Asia Tour 2009 in Malaysia by striking home a powerful message about protecting children from HIV.

KUALA LUMPUR, 17 July 2009 - Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Federico Macheda as well as Manchester United Foundation Chief Executive John Shiels took time out of the club's pre-season tour of Asia today to join the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the club's global charity, to champion the rights of marginalised children in Malaysia and highlight their increased vulnerability to HIV.

Visiting Positive Living today – a program under the community-based organisation PT Foundation – the group spent time with ten children from vulnerable backgrounds, including children from families affected by HIV and AIDS, whose parents are sex workers or drug users, as well as street children and refugee children.

Despite Malaysia’s progress for children in health and education, many still find themselves living on the margins of society as a result of public discrimination, stigma and prejudice. As a result, these marginalised children are in the highest risk category for HIV infection.

Stark realities of vulnerable children

© UNICEF/Malaysia/2009/Mohan
Manchester United player Federico Macheda listens to a group of vulnerable children from Malaysia. Sitting with him is Asha, a teenage affected by AIDS.

Joined by the players for an intimate discussion, the children shared their feelings, dreams and daily life experiences along with revealing the stark differences in the lives of young people shadowed by HIV, drug abuse, violence, exploitation and displacement.

Asha* a 15-year old girl whose father died as a result of AIDS recalled the day her mother revealed her status. “When my mother told me that she was HIV positive, I panicked and didn’t know what to do. I could not accept it.”

After her father died, Asha and her mother were forced to move from their home and community, a result of discrimination suffered from friends and family, “After my father passed away everyone hated my mother. Everyone hurt her.”

All children should be treated equally

Through their visit, the Manchester United players aim to highlight the facts about HIV, to help break down the prejudice and stigma faced by marginalised children and to advocate for their right to be treated fairly.

UNICEF Ambassador Ryan Giggs said: “Its tragic to hear how marginalised children and those affected by HIV suffer as a result of stigma. But by joining these children here today and showing our support we hope to send out a powerful message; that all children, no matter their background, where they live or their HIV status should be treated equally.”

UNICEF is working with the government and partners to challenge discrimination, to protect children, reduce stigma and promote awareness of these issues including HIV prevention.

Fighting stigma is vital

Patrice Evra added: “Fighting against stigma is a vital step in protecting marginalised children. To do this we must all learn the facts about HIV and AIDS - you cannot get HIV by playing with children who are HIV positive. All children have the right to be treated fairly, and we support UNICEF’s work to ensure this.”

Today’s UNICEF visit represents the latest in the groundbreaking ten year ‘United for UNICEF’ partnership between Manchester United and UNICEF, and highlights the club's continuing commitment to UNICEF’s 'Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS' global campaign. Since 1999 the partnership has raised over US$ 3.75 million (approximately RM 13 million) benefiting over 1.5 million children worldwide. In 2007, the club donated more than US$ 150,000 (RM 500,000) to UNICEF Malaysia for HIV and AIDS youth-prevention programs.

“Lasting solutions for the next generation must address both protection from HIV and protection of children's rights," said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam, Mr Youssouf Oomar. "These rights are not merely the benefit of a few but the entitlement of all children, regardless of their identity, status, geographical location or gender."

The 10-year anniversary coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child this year.

* Names have been changed to protect the children’s identities.



High-resolution photographs
Photographs of the Manchester United visit is available for media use. Please contact UNICEF Malaysia.

ABOUT ‘United for UNICEF’ Partnership
Manchester United was the first football club to take the initiative in developing an active partnership between UNICEF and the world of football. ‘United for UNICEF’ was launched in 1999 and is the longest running collaboration between a Premiership football club and a global charity. Manchester United was one of the first corporate partners to sign up to support UNICEF’s five year global children and AIDS campaign, Unite for Children Unite against AIDS. Manchester United’s partnership with UNICEF under the ‘United for UNICEF’ brand is managed by the Manchester United Foundation (Trading) Limited.

ABOUT Positive Living
Positive Living is one of several programs run by PT Foundation (formerly known as Pink Triangle). This program was established in early 1992. Amongst the services provided are information, education and services related to HIV and AIDS. Positive Living also has a program called PL Buddy Program. Its aim is to give training to all volunteers who are interested in participating and becoming a buddy to those who are HIV-positive. For more information, please visit Positive Living


Indra Kumari Nadchatram
UNICEF Malaysia
(603) 2095 9157 • (+6) 012 292 6872 

Shiao Eek, Tee
UNICEF Malaysia
(603) 2095 9154 • (+6) 012 207 0138

Jeremy Sprigge
+44 (0)7989 258 861 • Press Line: 020 7430 0162





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