World AIDS Day: Promoting youth engagement and awareness through sports – World Health Organization

Young people still face significant access gaps to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. These gaps are underpinned by stigma, discrimination, punitive laws and policies, violence and entrenched societal and gender inequalities which hinder
engagement of and access to care for young people.

This year’s World AIDS Day, under the theme “Equalize”, is an opportunity to raise awareness about
the HIV inequities faced by youth and demonstrate innovative ways to share HIV related information and services with them.

Sports that promote inclusion and empowerment, particularly on football pitches, are being used in Africa to inform and engage youth in HIV and sexual and reproductive health rights information and services.

TackleAfrica is one such organization that has programmes running in 10 African countries across the eastern, western and southern regions using the power and popularity of football to deliver these services to young people. Trained football
coaches, games teachers and community leaders use fun, interactive football sessions with inbuilt health messaging with their players. During football sessions and tournaments, players are also able to access sexual health services, including HIV
testing, condoms and other contraception, and referrals to further clinical services.

Trained football coaches, games teachers and community leaders use fun, interactive football sessions with inbuilt health messaging with their players.
© TackleAfrica

Grassroot Soccer, an adolescent health organization, leverages the power of soccer to equip young people with information, services and mentorship to live healthier lives.

“Our participants can come here any time they want. If things are not good at home, they can come here and talk to us. It’s a friendly environment for our participants where we use soccer as a tool to do different activities to give them life skills,” said Judy, GRS Coach (South Africa).

Grassroot Soccer Coach Judy, South Africa
© Grassroot Soccer

Kids come for soccer but end up leaving with knowledge about how to make better choices for themselves, their life, and their future,” said Musa, GRS Coach (South Africa).

Grassroot Soccer Coach Musa, (South Africa)
© Grassroot Soccer

Youth engagement is one of the key characteristics of high-quality health services for adolescents. It is essential that the meaningful participation and engagement of young people are encouraged and that young people are empowered to take center stage
in accessing services.

“Grassroot Soccer has helped me to realize that I have a hero inside me to help me overcome all challenges I am facing. I have learned that I don’t need society to choose a life for me, but I have the power to write my own story,” said Dennis Dube, Global Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Coordinator. Former SKILLZ Participant and Coach (South Africa).

WHO convenes the adolescent service delivery working group which provides organizations such as Grassroots Soccer, TackleAfrica and other adolescent friendly and responsive service delivery models the platform to demonstrate
meaningful ways to engage young people and share best practices.

Grassroot Soccer, an adolescent health organization, leverages the power of soccer to equip young people with information, services and mentorship to live healthier lives.
© Grassroot Soccer