HIV and AIDS are having a devastating effect on children in South Africa and continue to be among the biggest challenges facing the country today. Approximately 5.4 million South Africans are living with HIV (14% of the world’s total AIDS population). Over 250,000 of those are young people under the age of 15, with a further 1.5 million children orphaned as a result of AIDS.
The visit enabled Ryan and former team mate Chris Eagles, to see for themselves the kind of work that has been funded by the Manchester United and UNICEF partnership, ‘United for UNICEF’, which has raised over £2million to date and helped 1.5 million children worldwide.
The players visited the UNICEF backed Sonke Gender Justice project in Gugulethu township Cape Town, where they spent the afternoon with a group of young people, taking part in a lively class room workshop aimed at tackling the attitudes and behaviours that can lead to HIV infection.
Whilst at the project the pair talked with ‘Phumzile’, a young man living with HIV, about his experiences of virus, the effect on his families, and his role in tackling a major causes of new HIV infection.
Violence and abuse towards young women and children plays a key role in perpetuating the spread of HIV, with those most vulnerable often children who themselves have lost one or both parents as a result of AIDS related illnesses. The UNICEF backed Sonke Gender Justice programme aims to tackle this issue head on through education. By challenging traditional behaviours, encouraging greater respect for women and educating young people on safe sexual practice, UNICEF is working to give young people the knowledge they need to stem the spread of the virus and prevent new HIV infection.
This UNICEF visit, one of several the club undertook while on tour, represents the latest in the groundbreaking nine year ‘United for UNICEF’ partnership between Manchester United and UNICEF, and highlights the clubs continuing commitment to UNICEF’s children and AIDS campaign across the globe.