“We are pleased to support this partnership whose focus is the young people of Zimbabwe. They are the future – both the future of our societies and the future of the disease,” said Charles Ray, U.S. Ambassador at programme launch ceremony held at Motor Action Sports Club in Harare.
The PEPFAR grant will enable FUZ, with technical support from PSI-Zim, to conduct HIV/AIDS education programmes for its 600 members, who include professional players and coaches from 16 soccer teams in Zimbabwe’s top football leagues. Through the programme, the footballers will learn how to take care of themselves and their families as well as share this knowledge with their fans, many of whom are boys and young men.
“You heroes of the pitch can become lifestyle heroes as well. We are all able to make some contribution, big or small, to improve lives and to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Your contributions have the potential to be critical and to save lives,” said Ambassador Ray.
FUZ is composed of more than 1,000 retired and current professional Zimbabwean football players, youth players and coaches. Desmond Maringwa of Dynamos Football Club is the current president of the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe. Maringwa, together with several Zimbabwean celebrities, joined the U.S. Ambassador on December 1, 2010 (World AIDS Day) at a PSI testing centre to encourage Zimbabwean youth to get tested for HIV. This new initiative is a result of that successful collaboration and seeks to spread HIV prevention messages to the 65% of Zimbabwe’s population under the age of 30.
PEPFAR was launched in 2003 as a five- year global pledge to fight HIV/AIDS. In 2008, PEPFAR was renewed for another 5 years. This year, the U.S. government, through PEPFAR, is providing more than US$57 million in the fight against HIV in Zimbabwe.