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Tackling HIV/AIDS Through Football

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Precious Mulabika
by Precious Mulabika
April 15, 2024

Of the nearly 2 million adolescents living with HIV around the world, over 60% are girls and young women ages 10-24 and 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa. These young people not only face the complexities of navigating the transition into adult-life, but they must also manage a chronic disease as they do so. In addition, there is a lack of youth-friendly HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services available which makes access and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) challenging.

Play it Forward is proud to work together with the Mercury Phoenix Trust to help end HIV/AIDS in Zambian communities and promote young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). On December 9 we held our first Play & Prevent first community festival as part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence under the theme ‘UNITE! Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls’. Over 350 young people came together at Mulwani Secondary School grounds to participate in small-sided games and learn about important issues such as early marriage and family planning. The tournament was an important opportunity for young people to come together and show their support for the fight against gender-based violence, while also promoting healthy lifestyles and preventative health measures.


Stakeholders from organisations including, Zambia Agency for Persons with Disability(ZAPD), Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia (PPAZ), the GBV One Stop Center, On Call Africa, Vilole Images Productions and representatives from the parents committee, were in attendance to provide valuable information and services to participants. These people work tirelessly to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence, and their presence at the festival was a testament to the necessity and importance of this work.

One of the highlights of the event was the opportunity it provided for participants to share their experiences and seek support. One young woman, bravely came forward to speak about the abuse she had endured, and received support and guidance from the staff at the GBV One Stop Center. This is just one example of the crucial role that events like these community tournaments can play in creating a safe, supportive space for young people to speak out and seek help.

The tournament was a thrilling event, with the winning teams being celebrated and awarded footballs as prizes. The boys’ team coached by Emeldah Kambenja, emerged as the overall winners, with the Livingstone City Team coached by Staford Manda, coming in as runners-up. The GMH girls team, coached by Grace Mutukelwa, also had a strong showing and were declared the winners in their category.

Overall, the event was a powerful demonstration of the collective will to combat gender-based violence and promote equality. Through the power of sport, young people were able to come together, learn about important issues, and support one another in their efforts to create a better world. We look forward to holding another two of these community festivals in 2023.