UNICEF UK Ambassador Ryan Giggs and Chris Eagles took time out from the Reds' pre-season tour of South Africa to learn about the impact of HIV/AIDS and violence on the country's children and young people.
HIV/AIDS are having a devastating effect on children in South Africa and continue to be among the biggest challenges facing the country today. Approximately 5.4 million South Africans are living with HIV (14% of the world’s total AIDS population). Over 250,000 of those are young people under the age of 15, with a further 1.5 million children orphaned as a result of AIDS.
The visit enabled Ryan and Chris to see for themselves the kind of work that has been funded by the ‘United for UNICEF’ partnership, which has raised over £2million to date and helped 1.5 million children worldwide.
The players visited the UNICEF-backed Sonke Gender Justice project in the Township of Gugulethu in Cape Town. They spent the afternoon with a group of young people and took part in a lively classroom workshop aimed at tackling the attitudes and behaviours that can lead to HIV infection.
Violence and abuse towards young women and children plays a key role in perpetuating the spread of HIV, with those most vulnerable often children who themselves have lost one or both parents as a result of AIDS related illnesses. The UNICEF backed Sonke Gender Justice programme aims to tackle this issue head on through education. By challenging traditional behaviours, encouraging greater respect for women and educating young people on safe sexual practice, UNICEF is working to give young people the knowledge they need to stem the spread of the virus and prevent new HIV infection.