CONCACAF, UN partner for awareness

MIAMI —The Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on April 19 agreeing to work together and engage football in the AIDS response, particularly among young people. The agreement will be signed during the XXVIII CONCACAF Ordinary Congress in Panama City.

CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and UNAIDS Senior Adviser Dr. Djibril Diallo, in representation of Executive Director Michel Sidibé, are scheduled to sign the collaboration agreement that will join the two organizations in an unprecedented commitment to carry out joint advocacy and communications activities in regional competitions organized by CONCACAF in support of the UNAIDS "Protect the Goal" campaign. 
"We are keen to join forces with UNAIDS for the 'Protect the Goal' campaign in support of a healthier society," said President Webb. "Football and health are natural companions. We hope we can expand this partnership to other realms of support in order to convey educational messages through the power of our sport."
This initiative was launched in January at the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and is part of UNAIDS' sport for global advocacy programme. The campaign promotes HIV prevention and treatment, in advance of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
"HIV prevention and football is a winning combination. Millions of young people are involved in football either as players or fans," said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. "CONCACAF is a key partner and together we can reach millions of young people and ensure they have access to accurate information about HIV so that they can protect themselves and lead healthy and productive lives."
UNAIDS brings to the partnership extensive experience in advocacy and communication as well as technical expertise and global reach in relation to the AIDS response. CONCACAF is an expert in organizing competitions for national teams and clubs and conducting World Cup qualifying tournaments. 
Globally, an estimated 4.6 million young people (15-24 years of age) are living with HIV. About 2,300 young people are infected with HIV each day. Many young people living with HIV, who are eligible for treatment lack access or do not know their HIV status. In Latin America, the situation among youth is of particular concern. Less than 30% of 15-24 year olds could correctly identify how to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, and condom use in this age group remains low, while only 30% of women aged 20 to 24 report using condoms during their last sexual activity. The "Protect the Goal" campaign also stresses the need for ensuring all the 15 million people eligible for life-saving antiretroviral treatment can access it by 2015. 
During the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship, UNAIDS and CONCACAF have agreed to disseminate HIV prevention messages in the Rommel Fernandez stadium. The captains of the top two teams playing in the final game are expected to read a statement calling on players, football fans and young people to support the "Protect the Goal" campaign.
The 12-team tournament will decide the Confederation's representative to the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup scheduled for October 17 to November 8 in the United Arab Emirates. It is the first time that Panama has staged the CONCACAF finals. The twelve teams participating in the championship are: Barbados, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.