Stars in Sierre Leone AIDS awareness campaign

Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have joined forces with UNICEF to front a new AIDS awareness advertising campaign in Sierra Leone.

The ad campaign, launching in early 2008, will run nationwide across TV, radio and billboards in each of the country’s 13 districts and will promote HIV and AIDS prevention amongst three million young people.

Young people in Sierra Leone are at increasing risk of HIV and AIDS. Although the number of people living with HIV stands at 1.5 per cent, since 2002 the country has seen a 75 per cent increase in all new HIV infections. Despite this amongst youngsters as few as 17 per cent understand how to protect themselves against the virus.

With low awareness of the dangers, and infection rates rapidly rising, the need to reach young people with accurate information to encourage them to change their sexual behaviour is vital.

The new Manchester United advertising campaign, will target those at greatest risk – over three million young people – by tapping into football’s huge nationwide popularity. In Sierra Leone football stars such as Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra enjoy an unrivalled high profile and are instantly recognised as role models by millions of young people. International teams such as Manchester United receive fervent and widespread support ? team colours are often proudly displayed from cars, houses and taxis. Big international club matches are avidly followed by young people who often pay a small fee to watch or listen to the games.

Recognising this popularity and the power of football to reach the country’s young, the ad campaign will feature each player delivering a unique HIV and AIDS prevention message. Each message has been developed and pre-tested at grassroots level by young people in Sierra Leone and will focus on three key themes:

Stigma: “AIDS destroys your health and kills, but so can the stigma of HIV. Stop blaming others! Stigma on HIV spreads the disease.”

Encouraging safe sexual practice: “Keeping my body fit and healthy is vital for my game. AIDS destroys a healthy body. Keep yourself healthy and protect your loved ones. Use a condom. Only you can stop AIDS.”

Getting tested: “AIDS destroys your health and kills. Knowing your HIV status will help you protect your health and that of your loved ones. Get tested for HIV ? Now! Know your HIV status and live a healthy life.”

Recorded on site at the clubs Carrington training ground, the ad campaign marks the latest stage in Manchester United’s commitment to combating HIV and AIDS through the United for UNICEF partnership. In 2006 the club funded a UNICEF AIDS prevention programme in Sierra Leone; reaching over 100,000 school children.

This new ad campaign will consist of three 60 second TV advertisements, three 30 second radio advertisements and nine billboard posters.


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