Sir Elton John smiles with GRS staff and Skillz Participants at the Football for Hope Center in Khayelitsha, South Africa.

During a visit to Grassroot Soccer’s Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha, South Africa on March 25, 2010, Founder and Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), Sir Elton John, emphasized the role that football can play in fighting the AIDS epidemic: “Soccer stars are the most powerful role models for young people today… so it’s fantastic that organizations like Grassroot Soccer are harnessing that power to educate young people about HIV’.

The visit was the culmination of an application process to EJAF for support of a groundbreaking new Grassroot Soccer Zambia project entitled, “Bridging the Gap: Effective HIV Prevention, Testing, and Treatment through the Power of Soccer.”  Through a grant of more than £1 million over 3 years, EJAF will enable Grassroot Soccer to continue to reach youth with HIV prevention and life skills education while scaling up an innovative testing and treatment program.  This program will establish an effective psychosocial support and follow up system so that all HIV positive youth in the program have immediate access to HIV care and treatment.

HIV prevalence among young people between 15 and 19 years of age is almost 5 per cent in Zambia and it is estimated that only 28 per cent of this age group know their HIV status. The Zambian government has cited the need for a widespread campaign on the benefits of knowing your status and called for help from non-governmental organizations to increase the demand for, and provision of, HIV testing. This is exactly what GRS hopes to achieve through its football-based programs.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation is one of the foremost independent AIDS charities in the world. It supports prevention and care services in 15 countries globally and has reached 150 million people in its 17-year history.

Click here to read more about Sir Elton John’s Visit to the Football For Hope Center.