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HIV Prevention in Action on the Football Field: The Whizzkids United Program in South Africa

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Abstract

The Africaid Trust is a grassroots South African non-profit organization that engages youth in HIV prevention by harnessing the popularity of football (i.e. soccer). WhizzKids United, the organization’s primary program, operates a 12-week program in elementary schools in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, which aims to impart knowledge and life skills critical to HIV prevention. The goal of this research was to compare elementary school youth who received the program to youth who only received traditional classroom-based HIV education on health behaviors and HIV-related knowledge and stigma. A secondary objective was to evaluate HIV knowledge, sexual behaviors, attitudes towards HIV and health care seeking behaviors among South African youth in grades 9–12. Elementary students who participated in the program reported greater HIV knowledge and lower HIV stigma (p < .001) than those who had not. The majority of youth in grades 9–12 report having sexual relations (55.6 %), despite low levels of HIV testing (29.9 %) in this high HIV prevalence region of South Africa. The results highlight the importance of supporting community-based HIV educational initiatives that engage high-risk youth in HIV prevention and the need for youth-friendly health services.

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Acknowledgments

This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada and with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA; Grant # 106357-003). This research was also supported by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR): International Planning Meeting Grant on HIV prevention. WhizzKids United would like to thank all of its funders who made the programme in Edendale possible from 2006-2010, including Harvard Medical School, Abbott Laboratories, street footballworld and Altech Autopage Cellular. We would also like to thank the Medical Research Council of South Africa for allowing the use of their mobile handsets for data collection. We would also like to acknowledge the cooperation and participation of school principals and students in the Edendale community, not only in this research project but in welcoming the WhizzKids United program into their schools over the past five years. The authors also thank Michael Armstrong, Crystal Holly, and Bethany Keleher for their assistance with coordinating the preparation and submission of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Louise Balfour.

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Balfour, L., Farrar, T., McGilvray, M. et al. HIV Prevention in Action on the Football Field: The Whizzkids United Program in South Africa. AIDS Behav 17, 2045–2052 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-013-0448-6

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