UN reaches out to young Olympians in quest for zero new HIV infections

17 August 2010

The United Nations has partnered with the organizers of the first-ever Youth Olympic Games to raise awareness about HIV among young people, who account for 40 per cent of all new infections, as well as fight stigma associated with the virus.

The Games, which kicked off on Saturday in Singapore, will be held every two years – alternating between Summer and Winter – for young athletes from around the world between the ages of 14 and 18.

“Young athletes are role models in their communities,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

“We need to call on these young people to lead the prevention revolution if we are to reach UNAIDS’ vision of zero new infections.”

The joint efforts by UNAIDS and the organizers of the Singapore Games are part of the agency’s overall partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to provide HIV prevention information and raise awareness about HIV among young people during the two weeks of the competition.

“HIV awareness and prevention campaigns are most effective when addressed to the youth,” noted Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC. “Sport is a powerful tool for reaching out to today’s youth on all continents and for educating them early on about healthy and responsible behaviours.”

UNAIDS, together with civil society organizations, will conduct a series of workshops focusing on adolescent sexual and reproductive health as well as stigma surrounding HIV.

In a toolkit prepared for the sports community, UNAIDS notes that prevention and fighting against discrimination are two fields in which sport can clearly make a difference.

The sports community is a key partner in reaching out to young men and women in their villages or cities, the agency stated, adding that sports events, clubs and gyms offer a perfect platform to make young people aware of the issue, to promote preventive messages, and to ensure that persons living with HIV are not discriminated against.

The workshops will be open to the estimated 3,600 young athletes and 1,400 officials in the Olympic Village. In addition, condoms have been made available for free at the medical clinics.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Stigma exacerbates rising HIV epidemic among Eastern European youth

An underground HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is intensifying at an alarming pace, and the issue is being exacerbated by high levels of social stigma holding young people back from seeking treatment, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says in a new report.