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27/07/2007Manchester United stars speak out on children and HIV
© UNICEF/China/Li Mingfang
Manchester United players support UNICEF and the Government of China's children and AIDS campaign.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA, 27 July 2007 - Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Dong Fangzhuo took time out of the club's Far East Tour for a meeting with three children whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS and have suffered from stigma and discrimination as a result. The meeting was organised by UNICEF, Manchester United's global charity partner in support of Government of China's Children and AIDS campaign which puts children at the forefront of the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Like in many parts of the world, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and their families remain the greatest barriers to AIDS prevention and care in China. The Government campaign has made the reduction of stigma and discrimination a priority yet although discrimination is illegal and laws are in place, public awareness remains low.

People living with HIV often lose their entitlements to healthcare, education and employment and become isolated by their community and family members. Afraid to reveal their status, they do not receive the treatment and financial support available to them. 

Rio Ferdinand spoke to nine year old Mei Mei* about her life. She lost her father to AIDS, and due to the stigma, her mother did not get tested immediately and is now very sick. They moved from their village, where the rest of their family still lives, to the city where Mei Mei's mother can get treatment. Mei Mei has had to drop out of school to care for her sick mother. "My friends do not know my mother is sick – they would bully me" she tells Ferdinand. They have not told their extended family for fear of being isolated, so do not get support from them. Mei Mei's dream is to go to school in the village that she comes from.

Fifteen year old Lan Lan* spoke to Ryan Giggs. He lost his father to AIDS three years ago and his mother is HIV positive. Due to the stigma they had to move to another village so Lan Lan was taken away from all his friends. He only recently learnt the real reason for leaving the village. "I tell people that my mother has a cold. If I tell my friends the truth people will stay away from me" he explains.

The aim of the meeting with the players was to break the barrier of stigma by publicly dispelling the most common myths about HIV/AIDS and promoting the facts.  Photographs of the footballers and children playing together will demonstrate that HIV is not transmitted by playing together, holding hands and hugging and that people affected by HIV/AIDS have the same rights as all people.

UNICEF Ambassador Ryan Giggs said: "It is tragic to hear that these children are hiding the truth about their lives because they are scared that people will discriminate against them. I hope that by being here today we can help raise awareness amongst the public and our fans in China about the real facts on AIDS – children and families affected by HIV/AIDS have the same rights as everyone else. We would like to ask everyone to please learn the facts. Stigma and discrimination against these young people should no longer exist."

Dr Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF China Representative said, "All of us can make a difference in the lives of children affected by HIV and AIDS.  First, we need to listen. Listen to the reality of children's lives and design effective responses; second, we must learn the facts about AIDS and that HIV is not transmitted through everyday contact, and finally, we must support the implementation of China’s strong anti-discrimination laws."

* Names have been changed to protect the children's identities

Notes to Editors:
http://www.unicef.org/china/children_hiv_aids_4796.html [English]
http://uniteforchildren.youth.cn/ [Chinese]

HIV/AIDS in China:
It is estimated that at the end of 2005, 650,000 people were living with HIV and there are 70,000 new infections each year (1). As adults get sick and die a growing number of children are missing out on education and opportunities to contribute to society.

Experts agree that success in combating HIV/AIDS among young people in China will change not only China but the entire world, as the country's 320 million young people account for nearly 20% of the global youth population.

United for UNICEF in China:
Manchester United has invested in UNICEF's work for the children of China before.

 - In 2005, the club invested £200,000 to assist the Government and UNICEF to prevent the trafficking of women and children in Sichuan Province. Players Ryan Giggs and Dong Fang Zhou handed over 500 sport in a box kits to children involved in this project

- In 2004 Manchester United invested £92,000 in the Buddhist Leadership Initiative, Yunnan province

- In 2000 Manchester United players took part in a televised anti-smoking campaign

United for UNICEF:
Manchester United's partnership with UNICEF under the 'United for UNICEF' brand is managed by the Manchester United Foundation (Trading) Limited.

 (1) 2005 Update on HIV/AIDS Epidemic and Response in China – Ministry of Health/UNAIDS

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information contact:
Liu Li, Communications Specialist, Tel:  (86-10) 6532 3131 x1303, liliu@unicef.org