Youth to play a key role in the AIDS response in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as EURO 2012 ends
03 July 2012
“In football and in life you need to look ahead,” said UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Michael Ballack to the TV viewers of the anti-AIDS charitable concert given by Elton John and Queen in Kiev, Ukraine, ahead of the 2012 European Football Championship final. “Every day 3 000 young people become infected with HIV. We can stop that. Protect yourself and your partner!” stated Ballack.
Entitled Your Life is Not a Game. Let's Stop AIDS Together!, the concert was organized by the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation in collaboration with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). It was broadcasted live in Ukraine and Poland as part of the events related to the Euro 2012 tournament hosted by Poland and Ukraine between 8 June and 1 July 2012.
EURO 2012 provided an excellent opportunity to highlight the AIDS epidemic among a large audience across Europe as millions of fans, communities and nations watched the games, listened to football players and engaged in social activism.
UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador HRH Crown Princess of Norway Mette-Marit also delivered a message to the Ukrainian and regional youth: “I strongly believe in young people,” said Mette-Marit. “Youth leadership and empowerment can make miracles. If you unite your forces and raise your voices, you will be heard by decision makers. And one day you will be the decision makers,” she added.
There is a need for new voices, new energy and new ideas to address the vulnerability of youth, to promote HIV prevention and to advocate for tolerance towards people affected by AIDS in the region
UNAIDS Director, Regional Support Team for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Jean-Elie Malkin
Youth opinion leaders can play an important role in social change, including the transformation of prejudice and stigma associated with HIV, as they are known and admired by their peers—young people look up to them as role models. Their voices can help drive important messages on HIV prevention as well as overcome widespread stigma and discrimination.
Regional Youth Team
During the Euro 2012, a new Regional Youth Team comprised of young leaders in sport, music and youth culture in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region was introduced in Kiev with support from UNAIDS. The Team will focus on galvanizing the commitment of young people in effective HIV prevention and promoting youth activism as a key pillar to change society’s attitude towards people affected by AIDS. Stigma and discrimination continue to be important barriers in effectively responding to HIV in the region.
“Young people remain at risk in all parts of the region,” said Jean-Elie Malkin, UNAIDS Director, Regional Support Team for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “There is a need for new voices, new energy and new ideas to address the vulnerability of youth, to promote HIV prevention and to advocate for tolerance towards people affected by AIDS in the region,” he added.
During a three-day programme in Kiev, the Team gave a concert at the main stage of the Euro 2012 Fan-Zone, visited a clinic providing HIV services and talked to HIV-positive patients, played friendly football matches with people affected by the epidemic. The members of the Team also gave TV and radio interviews where they called upon millions of young football fans to avoid actions that put them at risk for HIV and to respect rights of people living with HIV and break down barriers created by stigma and discrimination.
“Young people are often not aware of the danger of AIDS,” said Farhod Tarifi 2010 Taekwondo Junior World Champion from Tajikistan and member of the Youth Team. “For them, it is just a word, something that can never happen to them. But unfortunately it can happen to anyone. Everybody should be prepared!” he added.
The Youth Team will promote solidarity with people living with HIV in their respective countries through the use of social media networks, fan-clubs, addressing their audiences at concerts and media interviews, participating in World AIDS Day events and other HIV-related activities. The Team will also participate in regional and international music and sport events such as the world university games Universiade 2013 which will take place in Kazan, Russia.
The members of the Regional Youth Team include DJ Vakcina (Disk Jockey, Armenia), Azad Shabanov (composer and singer, Azerbaijan), Ura Vashuk (composer and singer, Belarus), Kanykei (singer, Kyrgyzstan), Dara (composer and singer, Moldova), Julia Lasker (composer and singer, Russia), Farhod Sharifi (2010 Taekwondo Junior World Champion, Tajikistan), Vlad Darwin (composer and singer, Ukraine), Jassur Mirsagatov (composer and singer, Uzbekistan).
The HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is still on the rise. An estimated 1.4 million [1.3 million – 1.6 million] people were living with HIV in the region in 2009, almost triple the number reported in 2000.