Harare March2012: The partnership between the United States President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) has, since June 2011, reached over 40,000 Zimbabwean students between 13 and 17 years of age with life-saving health information about HIV/AIDS, officials from the Population Services International (PSI) said on Thursday.
“PSI trained more than 449 soccer players from 16 soccer clubs nationwide to facilitate sessions on the risks of HIV, the dangers of multiple partners, the importance of knowing one’s status, and getting circumcised,” said Kumbirai Chatora, Deputy Director of the international organization. “Together with the soccer players, we have reached a total of 40,728 from 50 schools in Harare and Bulawayo. Out of the schools reached, over 1,000 school boys have shown interest in getting circumcised.” Chatora announced these results during an outreach program by FUZ at Prince Edward School March 23. United States Ambassador Charles Ray and members of the FUZ executive, including President Desmond Maringwa, attended the information program for 1,200 boys at the school.
In June of last year, the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section provided FUZ and PSI a grant of $60,000 to organize and run the “Half Time Talk” HIV/AIDS awareness program. Through this program, PSI-Zimbabwe provided group trainings for all of Zimbabwe’s professional soccer players and coaches as part of a comprehensive education program on HIV prevention, Male Circumcision (MC), and other critical life management skills.
At Prince Edward School, soccer players Norman Maroto of Gunners Football Club, Ashley Rambanepasi of Caps United F.C. and Maxwell Nyamupangedengu of Harare City FC explained male circumcision procedures and responded to questions from the students, most of whom were curious about the cost, process and effectiveness of the various ways to combat HIV.
“Male circumcision does not stop you contracting the virus, but reduces the risk of you contracting it,” explained Rambanapasi in response to a question from a student.
The U.S. Ambassador hailed the commitment shown by the footballers in teaching HIV and AIDS prevention as well as life skills to students.
“We are incredibly pleased by the success of this program. I appreciate the efforts of our frequent partner, PSI, in making this a priority in their truly important work in Zimbabwe to fight HIV/AIDS,” said the U.S. Ambassador. “And we are thrilled to walk away from this experience with a wonderful new partner in FUZ. I am sincerely impressed by your passion for providing the young people of Zimbabwe with strong role models—heroes both on and off the pitch.”
Under PEPFAR, the U.S. has committed over $245 million since 2000 (and over $60 million in 2012) to supporting HIV and AIDS programs in Zimbabwe including providing anti-retroviral drug treatment support for 80,000 Zimbabwean AIDS patients each year. Additionally, the U.S. is leading the charge in supporting Zimbabwe’s groundbreaking efforts to prevent further infections through male circumcision. U.S. assistance also supports nearly 40% of all HIV counseling and testing in this country through close work with national programs to improve the quality of health care and to strengthen laboratory systems.