A team of top South African and international sportsmen will lend their star power to a campaign that promotes HIV prevention, and an end to violence against women and children.
South African football players Matthew Booth and Teko Modise, rugby captain John Smit, cricket captain Graeme Smith and international football stars Ryan Giggs of Manchester United and Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona have already signed up.
These sporting talents will be Sports Ambassadors for Brothers for Life, a national campaign encouraging men to take a stand against gender-based violence and HIV.
They will promote messages on television, radio and outdoor advertising about the risks of alcohol and unprotected sex in relation to HIV, and support a national HIV counselling and testing drive launched in April by President Jacob Zuma.
Although fewer men go to be tested or seek HIV/AIDS treatment than women, they have not been the main focus of previous prevention campaigns. Now, the Sports Ambassadors will be calling on men to "yenza kahle" (do the right thing).
"When good men don't stand up to be counted, HIV and AIDS spreads," said South Africa's Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe. "We call upon men of all classes and races to join the fight against HIV and AIDS, occupying the front trenches in this war through their social conduct."
|When good men don't stand up to be counted, HIV and AIDS spreads|
The campaign starts just 10 days before the FIFA World Cup kicks off and thousands of foreign football fans start arriving in South Africa. "There's going to be lots of drinking, probably quite a lot of sex, and we want to encourage people to be safe," said Dean Peacock, co-director of Sonke Gender Justice.
This is one of the 40 civil society organizations partnering with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), the national Department of Health, Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), to promote the campaign.
"We want to use spokespeople who have the status necessary to influence the behaviour of everyone who's coming here," said Peacock. The rugby and cricket players were included to ensure that the life of the campaign extends beyond the World Cup.
Besides appearing in advertising to promote the campaign, the South African Sports Ambassadors will show up at events, bringing their high profiles to on-the-ground activities, Peacock said.
"Men have the power to make an enormous difference in their own lives, and in the lives of their children and partners," said Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. "The Brothers for Life Sports Ambassadors campaign shows them the way."