To mark United Nations Worlds AIDS Day, Liverpool Football Club has donated strips, boots and other items of equiptment to footballers in the tiny but soccer-mad African kingdom of Lesotho.
This prized kit will go the winning team in next week’s Lesotho World Aids Day football tournament. Supported by the humanitarian agency CARE International, the one-day tournament will be held in the country’s national stadium.
CARE has worked in this small African country since the early 1960s. It uses football and football teams as a way of educating young people about the perils of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The programme, part of a much larger reproductive health project, is managed by Louise Robinson. Louise, 35, and a nurse by training, has worked with people with HIV/AIDS in the UK, in Uganda and in Lesotho.
Although born in Preston, Lancashire, Louise spent much of her early childhood in Liverpool’s home ground of Anfield, watching matches with her father, Alan, himself a one-time player for Preston North End.
‘We organise about 23 tournaments a year in Lesotho,’ says Louise. 'We felt that soccer matches provided the perfect opportunity to spread the safe-sex message.
Now we can reach over 50,000 young people to encourage them to change their behaviour and to use condoms.’ Liverpool FC's spokeswoman, Beverley Roberts, says: 'We like to support a range of charities both home and overseas.
When we heard about CARE International's innovative work fighting AIDS in Africa we were only too pleased to do our bit. Footballers are role models to young people in Lesotho just as much as they are in Britain.
It's great that we can help promote soccer in Lesotho and help deliver a serious health message at the same time.' Lesotho is an independent state of just over two million people and is surrounded entirely by South Africa.
The AIDS problem is huge across South Africa, but Lesotho is a much poorer country with fewer resources to cope with the epidemic. Its national AIDS programme is understaffed and under funded and the country has few international or national health organisations that can provide support.
Recent United Nations figures show that, across the whole of South Africa, 50,000 children a year are infected with the virus and that one in four women between the ages of 20 and 29 is HIV positive.
Notes to editors CARE International is one of the world’s largest humanitarian organisations. It is an independent relief and development agency working in 65 developing countries with 35 million of the world’s poorest people.
Whether supporting AIDS education and awareness, primary health care, sustainable agriculture or savings and loan schemes, programmes aim to promote positive and lasting change and avoid long-term dependency.
CARE International also sends emergency food, shelter and supplies to victims of natural disasters, wars and conflicts.