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International News

South Africa: Soccer Against HIV/AIDS

January 31, 2013

Ten years ago, former Highlanders player Tommy Clark and former Zimbabwe team captain Methembe Ndlovu launched Grassroot Soccer (GRS), an HIV/AIDS initiative that uses football/soccer to fight HIV/AIDS. The organization, headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa, now has an annual budget of approximately US $4.2 million and partners with organizations like the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Clark, who spent many formative years living and playing soccer in Africa, decided to use the influence of African soccer players -- who are heroes in their communities -- as a way to break the silence surrounding HIV. He and Ndlovu met with community leaders, headmasters, and focus groups of children and teachers in Bulawayo and planned a pilot project that was launched in January 2003. They worked with a consultant to develop a culturally appropriate soccer-based curriculum and recruited and trained 14 professional men and women soccer players as HIV educators. Clark noted that his idea of GRS has grown from using professional African soccer players as HIV educators to mobilizing the global soccer community to fight the spread of HIV in many ways through a variety of partnerships and programs.

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