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South Africa: Tackling HIV through youth mini world cup

With excitement surrounding FIFA’s glittering 2010 World Cup in South Africa reaching fever pitch, it’s easy to forget that this year’s host nation currently boasts the highest rate of HIV on the planet; an estimated 5.4 million people accounting for one fifth of all cases globally.

Taking full advantage of the passion and energy stirred up by the biggest football tournament on the planet, a coalition of grass root organisations including Christian Aid partner PACSA (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness), TackleAfrica and Alive & Kicking, are supporting a unique five-day youth football tournament to promote positive social education about HIV prevention and treatment amongst young people at high risk.

Named Bopha Siyakshona - meaning ‘build the nation, one youth at a time’ – this pioneering football tournament will take place between 5 -10 April in the KwaZulu-Natal province, strategically located near Durban where a new stadium is under construction for the World Cup, and will link 300 British, German and South African youths, all from hugely diverse social, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds.

‘With football’s potential to unite and influence, the key aims of the football tournament are to reduce HIV transmission and increase HIV testing, to fight stigma and discrimination, to promote youth leadership and development, and to help break down social barriers by exposing youth to different backgrounds, people, peers and situations,' explains Rachel Baggaley, Head of Christian Aid’s HIV Team.

'South Africa desperately needs more funding for HIV prevention and care, and in the KwaZulu-Natal province alone 39% of the population are HIV-positive, so we hope that the tournament will not only galvanise and prioritise the South African economy but also its HIV programmes.'

The Fair Trade footballs to be used in the tournament have been sourced from Alive & Kicking, with youth-friendly educative health messages relating to HIV and TB printed on the balls.

'This tournament is an excellent example of a programme that is maximising its impact in Africa through sourcing balls that are made and designed by previously unemployed workers across Africa, 55% of whom had never been in formal employment,' says Will Prochaska, director of Alive & Kicking.

Each participant of the tournament will also have the opportunity to take home one of the balls, helping to further spread positive health messages across their community and family networks.

'We are delighted to be involved with The Footballs for Life Project in South Africa and can’t wait to get started!” adds Ben Maitland, chairman of TackleAfrica, a UK-based organisation that uses football as a vehicle to increase young people's understanding of HIV in their communities.

'We look forward to working with PACSA, Christian Aid and Alive & Kicking to deliver a project the children will enjoy and be inspired by.'

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For more information please contact Richard Boden on 020 7523 2326 or RBoden@christian-aid.org, or Rob Cunningham, Christian Aid’s South Africa Country Manager, on 020 7523 2149 or RCunningham@christian-aid.org

Notes to Editors:

1. Visit Christian Aid partner PACSA at www.pacsa.org.za and follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

2. With projects in 6 African nations TackleAfrica has reached over 10,000 children and young people since 2002. Please visit www.tackleafrica.org or email info@tackleafrica.org

3. Alive & Kicking is a social enterprise that hand stitches leather balls in Africa to provide balls for children, create jobs for adults, and promote health awareness through sport. Currently operating ball stitching centers in Kenya and Zambia, Alive & Kicking has made and distributed over 280,000 balls and has reached more than 40,000 children through an HIV campaign. Please visit www.aliveandkicking.org.uk

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries. We act where the    need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

Poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of dignity, freedom and hope, of power over their own lives. Christian Aid has a vision – an end to poverty – and we believe that vision can become a reality. We urge you to join us.

Christian Aid has a vision – an end to poverty – and we believe that vision can become a reality. We work with the world’s poorest people in around 50 countries, regardless of race or faith. We are part of ACT Alliance, the ecumenical relief and development network.

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