Grassroot Soccer showed a strong presence at the recent XIX International AIDS Conference: Turning the Tide Together in Washington, D.C. Six GRS team members attended, including Founder and CEO Tommy Clark, Zak Kaufman, Elise Braunchweig, Mike Zales, Katie Gannett,and Ayanda Lembethe—our largest presence at an IAC to date!
The conference convened more than 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries. It featured a range of experts, leaders in the field, researchers, practitioners, and people living with HIV, including GRS board member UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, The Honorable Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, World Bank President Jim Kim, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, philanthropist Bill Gates, and humanitarian Sir Elton John. The conference celebrated a number of biomedical advances (for instance, on medical male circumcision), but speakers continued to emphasize the need for structural behavioral interventions, confirming the importance of GRS’s work.
GRS presented 7 abstracts—5 more than in any previous IAC. Six of the abstracts were poster presentations exploring GRS research on topics including the GOAL trial, Skillz Street, and testing in Zambia. Zak, Elise, Ayanda, and Tyler Spencer (former GRS intern and founder of the Grassroot Project in Washington D.C.) spoke on a panel, “International Perspectives and Experiences in Sport Based HIV Prevention for Young People.” The panel was moderated by former U.S. National Soccer Team Member Lorrie Fair and attended by a mix of about 75 young implementers and seasoned researchers. Team members also had a chance to facilitate a round of Grassroot Soccer activities, Juggling my Life and HIV Attacks, with about 40 conference participants at the Global Village.
The conference gave GRS a chance to connect with a number of its supporters—including Johnson & Johnson, the MAC AIDS Fund, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, PSI, the Gates Foundation, and STRIVE—and explore future partnerships and funding opportunities.
GRS also ran into more than 10 former GRS interns at the conference, showing the degree to which the GRS family is contributing to addressing the epidemic in all areas of the world.
GRS South Africa Program Manager Elise Braunchweig explains, “We are proud that our presence at the conference reflects the increasing research Grassroot Soccer is doing around our programs, from Skillz Street to the GOAL trial. The conference provided
us with a unique opportunity to simultaneously connect with our donors, partners, and research advisors, and we’re excited to share what we gained from the conference with the larger GRS team.”