KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), in conjunction with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), has officially launched the Protect the Goal campaign in Southeast Asia.
Protect the Goal, which was first launched at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, is a football-based HIV prevention programme that serves to help tackle the risk of HIV transmission among young people.
The project in Southeast Asia will comprise of behavioural change communications with youths through mainstream and social media, using the popularity of football as a tool to deliver messages to promote health in the region, while leveraging on the support of AFC’s sponsors and member associations, as well as building partnerships with community-based or youth-led organisations for wider engagement.
Globally, an estimated 5.4 million adolescents and young people are living with HIV, and 1.8 million are eligible for HIV treatment. Millions of young people living with HIV do not know they are living with the virus, and every day, approximately 2,100 adolescents and young people become newly-infected, which accounts for 36% of all new HIV infections globally.
At the launch of the campaign, held at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur today, AFC Deputy General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John expressed the support of the confederation in promoting the Protect the Goal campaign through some of its Southeast Asian member associations in the region, namely Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand.
“We are proud to be a partner of UNAIDS and ADB in this most noble campaign. The objectives of the campaign are to use the popularity and power of football as the world’s most popular sport to unite the world towards the goal of an AIDS-free generation,” Dato’ Windsor said.
Speaking at the press conference, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough shared that 12 countries account for more than 90% of new HIV infections in the region: Cambodia, the People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
“Through Protect the Goal, we aim to engage with a wider range of young people and hope they will commit themselves to HIV prevention, and are willing to come forward for HIV testing as well as counselling,” said Ms. Gyles-McDonnough.
As football is a sport followed from a very young age, the campaign’s target audience are young people aged 10 to 14. Therefore, the key to the demographic is to ensure that education on the dangers of HIV/AIDS starts young.
“We have to work together with governments, civil societies, affected populations, the private sector as well as youth communities to maximize our resources, connections and influence to continue educating everyone, especially the next generation, on the risks and preventive measures of HIV/AIDS. Working together towards zero infection is the only way we can fight the epidemic in Asia and the Pacific," said ADB Senior Social Development Specialist, Dr. Susann Roth.
In March 2014, Myanmar became the first Southeast Asian country to launch the Protect the Goal campaign, with the partnership of Myanmar Football Federation (MFF). The activities planned in Myanmar are focused on raising HIV awareness among young people leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in June in Brazil, where there will be an event profiling the global UNAIDS-led Protect the Goal.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is the governing body of Asian football and one of the six Confederations making up FIFA. The AFC is responsible for the administration of football in Asia. Among its various responsibilities are: regulating the game, drafting new laws to improve the sport, implementing the law, boosting grassroots and youth football, and conducting major competitions.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-Related Deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations - UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank - and works closely with global and national partners to maximize results for the AIDS response.