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Using Sport to Teach AIDS Awareness in Sudan

South Sudan, April 23, 2007

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How do you reach young people in one of world's most remote places about one of its deadliest diseases?

Mercy Corps is harnessing the power of sport to engage young people and encourage positive social behavior through its Sports for Peace and Life Program, supported by USAID and Nike. Using Grassroot Soccer's proven life skills training methodology, the program decreases young peoples' vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, while increasing their capacity to avert and resolve potential conflict.

Due to Sudan's 21-year civil war, two generations of southern Sudanese youth have missed out on a formal education. Now that peace has finally come, they face additional problems. A severe lack of schools and skilled teachers means there is still little opportunity for education or structured activities. An increase in trade and transport from neighboring countries brings with it the rising threat of HIV - a threat compounded by cultural barriers to speaking about sex and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Young people also risk inheriting the long-held beliefs that fuel intertribal conflict.

Mercy Corps believes sports can help. We've partnered with Grassroot Soccer, a U.S.-based nonprofit that has crafted an innovative HIV/AIDS lifeskills curriculum, to develop the Sports for Peace and Life program; more than 260 local coaches from all of southern Sudan's ten states have been trained to implement it. Through these coaches, more than 6,000 children have received accurate HIV/AIDS information and healthy living messages.