A global organization that reaches out to children in areas most affected by HIV is staging its most comprehensive project to date at the World Cup in South Africa.
Forty staff members as well as local volunteers from Grassroots Soccer (GRS) are at the World Cup, educating children about HIV while providing a place to watch and play soccer. South African schools are closed during the World Cup's six-week run.
"Our goal is to educate as many kids as possible and to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in South Africa using soccer as the entry point," said GRS co-founder Ethan Zohn. "It's still a little bit taboo in South Africa, a little stigmatized. By combining something really cool, like soccer and the World Cup, with HIV/AIDS, we're able to break down those barriers."
FIFA, soccer's international governing body, has made GRS an integral partner in its plans to build public health and education facilities with soccer fields throughout South Africa. GRS is hosting the first of FIFA's 20 planned projects, a Cape Town facility that opened in December.
"One of the most important elements for where the centers are built is a reliable partner on the ground," said Federico Addiechi, head of FIFA's social responsibility programs. "We realized [GRS] was one of the best models to address HIV/AIDS prevention through football."
Zohn, who played professional soccer in the United States and Zimbabwe, takes the long view of GRS's involvement in the region. "The tough part is what's going to happen after the World Cup when everyone leaves," he said.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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