Manchester United stars Dimitar Berbatov(L) and Michael Carrick(R) advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention among children and youngsters at a press conference held in Hangzhou.
Hangzhou, China, 25th July 2009—Manchester United stars Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick, Manchester United Director Phil Townsend and Manchester United Foundation CEO John Shiels today joined UNICEF, the club's global charity partner, to highlight the vital role of education in preventing the spread of HIV among young people.
Arriving in Hangzhou for the culmination of their pre-season Asia tour, the players met with 10 school children involved in the innovative 'Skills for Life in a Box' project - a joint UNICEF, Government of China initiative funded by the 10-year 'United for UNICEF' partnership. The project helps children develop skills to prevent transmission of HIV, reduce stigma and end discrimination against people affected by HIV and AIDS.
HIV prevention amongst young people is a key priority for UNICEF. Globally, young people between 15 - 24 now account for 45% of all new HIV infections. In China the number of new HIV infections is rising by 30% each year.
Whilst tremendous strides have been made in the care and treatment of adults and children living with HIV, many Chinese youngsters still lack the knowledge and skills they actively need to protect themselves from the virus. Currently only 41% of 15 - 24 year olds have accurate knowledge of how HIV is transmitted and how to protect themselves.
Recognizing the need to give young people the life skills and knowledge needed to prevent HIV, UNICEF has collaborated with the China Ministry of Education to develop the 'Skills for Life in a Box' kit. Distributed to schools in 7 provinces, each box contains educational material, games and sporting equipment designed to provide essential HIV prevention information, engage young people in educational games and promote stigma and discrimination reduction. 295 schools across 7 provinces have received a box, reaching over 560,000 school children.
Joining the school children for a fun and interactive session, the players took part in a number of activities and games designed to equip children with crucial life skills to prevent HIV and AIDS. The players also had a chance to talk with the youngsters about their lives and experiences. The visit enabled Berbatov and Carrick to see for themselves the kind of work funded by the United for UNICEF partnership, whilst also highlighting the vital role of education as a means of preventing HIV.
Manchester United Player and UNICEF Bulgaria Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov said:
"Young people are accounting for a growing number of new HIV infections, and in many cases simply because youngsters don't know how to protect themselves. Educating young people about HIV prevention is essential. This is why we are here today. To support UNICEF's work and to encourage young people to learn the facts about HIV."
Manchester United Director of Communications Phillip Townsend, presenting a £100,000 cheque on behalf of the United for UNICEF partnership to further fund the 'Skills for Life in a Box' initiative added:
"As a club we make a point of using our pre-season tours as an opportunity to see and support the work of UNICEF. At Manchester United we have always been committed to young people, which is why in 1999 we teamed up with UNICEF, the leading children's organisation. We remain as committed now - in the 10th year of our United for UNICEF partnership - as we where then, and we fully support UNICEF and the Governments work to protect young people from one of the greatest challenges, AIDS. We call on others to do the same."
UNICEF Representative to China, Dr Yin Yin Nwe said:
"We are at a crucial moment to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS, because the virus is having an increasingly devastating impact on young people in China."
"Today I am pleased to see that Manchester United is helping young people to gain important skills in life to protect themselves and to care for others, through sports and sports role models."
"I also want to congratulate the Ministry of Education on promoting the good practice of creative, participatory and skills-based learning in the national health education curricula to benefit all youth in school."
Two of the students who benefit from "'Skills for Life in a Box'" project, funded by Manchester United and UNICEF partnership, share their thoughts after an interactive game.
Today's visit is the latest event in the pioneering ten year ‘United for UNICEF partnership, and highlights Manchester United's continuing commitment to UNICEF's 'Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS' global campaign. Since 1999 the partnership has raised over £2 million benefiting over 1.5 million children around the world. The 10-year anniversary coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child this year.
In July 2009 players Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Federico Macheda visited a UNICEF supported programme in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Last summer, whilst on tour South Africa, Manchester United players visited UNICEF AIDS prevention projects in Cape Town and Johannesburg. In June 2008, Giggs, Ferdinand and Patrice Evra fronted a pioneering UNICEF AIDS prevention advertising campaign aimed at Sierra Leone's three million youngsters.
To support UNICEF UK's HIV prevention campaign 'Live free from HIV' visit www.unicef.org.uk/unite or call 0800 037 9797.