Sports stars join HIV, AIDS fight

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pretoria - When the biggest names in soccer arrive in South Africa within the next few days, winning the World Cup will not be their only mission.

While the likes of Matthew Booth, Teko Modise, Leo Messi and Thierry Henri will display their football talents on the field, they will also lend their voices to a worthy cause off the pitch.

The soccer players and some of South Africa's biggest sports stars, are all part of the squad that will promote HIV prevention and stand up to violence against women and children in the country and Southern Africa.

National cricket captain Graeme Smith, rugby captain John Smit, rugby player Tiger Mangweni and other soccer players Patrice Evra, Mame Biram Diof, Benni McCarthy and Seydou Ketia and all part of the team that will support the Brothers for Life Sports Ambassadors campaign.

The sport icons will promote messages on the risks of alcohol, encourage safe sex and urge men to get tested for HIV and AIDS.

This is in support of President Jacob Zuma's drive to get 16-million people tested for HIV and promote partner reduction through television, radio and outdoor advertising.

The sport stars' participation in the campaign has been welcomed by the South African and United State's governments and the United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) - all of whom support the initiative.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe called on men of all classes and races to join the fight against HIV and AIDS.

"When good men don't stand up to be counted, HIV and AIDS spreads. When good men are silent when other men brag about committing sexual violence against their partners, HIV and AIDS spreads. Real men speak up and condemn abuse and mistreatment of women and girl-children," he said.

US Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips added that the US government, who helped fund the Brothers for Life campaign, was excited to work with the world renowned sportsmen.

"These sports leaders set an example and send the messages that men must take responsibility for their own behaviour if we are going to stop the scourge of HIV and AIDS. We must defeat HIV and AIDS," Gips said.

UNICEF also encouraged men to behave more responsibly.

"Men have the power to make an enormous difference in their own lives and in the lives of their children and partners. The must take responsibility, put an end to gender-based violence and participate in HIV prevention efforts. They have to refrain from risk-taking behaviour such as alcohol and drug abuse. The Brothers for Life Sports Ambassadors campaign shows them the way," UNICEF's representative Elhadj As Sy said.

Football teams FC Barcelona and Manchester United have also thrown their support behind the campaign.