Young Olympians get the HIV message
23 August 2010
AIDS-inspired dance workshops, sports games with an HIV awareness-raising twist and make-your-own plasticine prevention messages were highlight activities coordinated by UNAIDS at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games, as part of the culture and education programme designed to encourage young Olympic athletes to learn more about issues of well-being, healthy lifestyle and social responsibility.
Throughout the proceedings of the Youth Games, held in Singapore from 14 to 26 August, a UNAIDS booth and a series of workshops addressed sexuality and HIV transmission, including myths and misconceptions, through interactive games, peer-to-peer discussion and innovative dance and drama methods.
Hosted in the Olympic village, the activities were accessible to the 3600 participating young athletes aged 14-18 and 1400 team officials. Every day, hundreds of young athletes visited the UNAIDS booth and workshops, with all activities coordinated and delivered by volunteers from UNAIDS event partners Y-PEER from the Philippines, Singapore-based organization BEADS as well as Youth Olympic Games volunteers.
“Despite language barriers, we were able to unite and channel energies of athletes coming from different cultures and backgrounds to talk about HIV and reiterate the need for protection and awareness,” said Y-PEER volunteer Mario Balibago.
While visiting the UNAIDS booth, athletes were encouraged to post updates to the UNAIDS Facebook page. “HIV is a good thing to talk about with the youth and to share… all over the world. Protect yourself and show love for people with HIV,” posted Kernesha Spann, a young 400m runner from Trinidad and Tobago.
The UNAIDS booth also received a number of high-profile visitors including Mr Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, and Mr Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Sport and Development, who both commended the use of innovative formats to reach young people with HIV messages through sport.
The partnership with the Youth Olympic Games is geared towards emphasizing UNAIDS’ priority area of empowering young people to protect themselves against HIV and as part of activities in support of the International Year of Youth, which commenced on 12 August. Following the successful interventions in Singapore, UNAIDS will continue to work with the International Olympic Committee to strengthen the partnership, including exploring the development of a cadre of Youth Athlete Champions for HIV.
“Sport is an incredible channel for getting HIV messages out to young people. As well as the athletes, the volunteers working with us at the booth also became hugely sensitized on HIV issues and wanted to spread the word further,” said Dawn Foderingham, Partnerships Advisor at the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific who coordinated UNAIDS’ participation in the Youth Games. “Young people are champions both on and off the field and their leadership on HIV can have critical impact,” she added.