GRS AIDS 2018 Pre-Conference Event.

Coach Taonga leads the crowd at the GRS AIDS 2018 Pre-Conference Event. Copyright: International AIDS Society / Matthijs Immink

As the largest conference on any global health issue in the world, with over 15,000 global leaders, policy makers, researchers, and advocates, the International AIDS Conference is a unique forum that intersects science, advocacy, and human rights. At the 2018 Conference in Amsterdam, Grassroot Soccer presented research on the impact of our work and approach, convened thought leaders and youth to drive the conversation around adolescent-centered design, demonstrated our programming, brought the perspective of young game changers in adolescent health, and collaborated with partners to engage around key issues. Below are some highlights from the week.



At the Conference, researchers and public health experts released recent data indicating that in sub-Saharan Africa nearly 5 million more young people in the region could have HIV by 2050 if trends continue. However, data from multiple countries shows the impact of enhanced prevention and treatment efforts.

In this context, Grassroot Soccer hosted a one-day workshop, joining with partner organizations and the adolescents we serve to share approaches to putting youth at the center of HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) interventions. Together we shared innovations and failures in using adolescent-centered design principles in HIV and SRHR. Key to the day was the Youth Game Changers Panel, where young voices from GRS, PEPFAR’s DREAMS Ambassadors program, Women Deliver, Girl Effect, and Avert shared their perspectives in each panel discussion, creating a cross-generational and multi-sector dialogue.

The event featured a diverse set of expert presenters, including Linda-Gail Bekker, President of the International AIDS Society, Lauren Marks, Director of Private Sector Engagement for PEPFAR, Jocelyn Wyatt, CEO of, Robin Gorna, Co-Lead of SheDecides, and our own Global Board Member Dr. Brian Brink, an expert and leader in HIV/AIDS, among many others.

The Youth Game Changers Panel (seated) and Jocelyn Wyatt, CEO of, discussing what it means for programs to be adolescent-centered. Copyright: International AIDS Society / Matthijs Immink

The varying insights and perspectives from the day highlighted the 3A’s framework: Assets, Access, and Adherence. A sampling of some of the key themes that came out of the discussions were:


  • Adolescence is a journey, and it is therefore important to understand the biological basis for risk-taking and create an environment that takes this into consideration
  • The importance of innovate ways to reach men and young boys to access health care services, including investing in self-testing approaches
  • The global health community must put resources behind gender transformative approaches
  • The importance of implementing differentiated models of care – one size does not fit all
  • Adolescents as partners, not just beneficiaries



Demand Creation Award Presentation AIDS 2018

Accepting the award for “Best Demonstrated Impact” at the OPTIONS Consortium Insights to Impact event are GRS Senior Business Development Manager Stacy Kramer (left) and GRS Zimbabwe Managing Director Bheki Moyo (center).


The pre-conference weekend kicked off with the presentation of the Demand Creation Innovation awards, presented by the OPTIONS Consortium at their Insights to Impact pre-conference event. At the event, GRS was presented with the award for “Best Demonstrated Impact” for our Make the Cut voluntary medical male circumcision intervention. Read more here.



Throughout the conference there were a total of 5 poster presentations featuring Grassroot Soccer’s work across a range of geographies and programs.

Grassroot Soccer poster presentation #1 AIDS 2018

GRS South Africa Programme Manager Mbu Malotana presents an evaluation of a GRS partnership with local football associations, designed to reach adolescent boys.

These presentations included:


  • A mixed-methods evaluation of an HIV preventions and sexual and reproductive health education program delivered to adolescent boys in South Africa through a partnership with local football associations
  • An outcome evaluation of GRS Zimbabwe SKILLZ programs from 2011-2017
  • Two evaluations of lessons learned from implementing sport-based HIV, life skills, and malaria programs for young people with intellectual disabilities in Nigeria, Namibia, and South Africa
  • GAIA, a GRS Partner in Malawi, presented on using the power of football to educate young people about and test them for HIV in rural Malawi

During the conference GRS launched our 2017-2018 Research & Insights Report, which shares our key recent learnings and impacts.



Discussing paths to youth engagement at a #GenEndIt session at AIDS 2018.

GRS Zambia Training Fellow and Master Coach Taonga Tembo Kennedy discussing paths to youth engagement at a #GenEndIt session at AIDS 2018.


In addition to our pre-conference event, our young leader Taonga Tembo Kennedy, Training Fellow and Master Coach, participated in several events that amplified the youth perspective. On Monday she gathered with young leaders for the Let Youth Lead session, hosted by Sentebale, which included a discussion with HRH Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. Tuesday she participated in a youth roundtable led by #GenEndIt, a coalition of like-minded organizations, including GRS, that are mobilizing youth to be the generation to end AIDS. On Thursday, she told her own personal story of being affected by HIV at a #GenEndIt “youth in action” discussion hosted by Ndaba Mandela at the MenStar booth in the Global Village, and attended a co-creation workshop hosted by Avert.

In addition to Tembo, two current and one former GRS Coaches from Zambia were granted scholarships to attend the conference, and spent the week learning ideas and information that they will take back into their work with young people.



AIDS 2018 delegates participate in "Risk Field", a GRS SKILLZ activity, at the MenStar booth in the Global Village.

AIDS 2018 delegates participate in “Risk Field”, a GRS SKILLZ activity, at the MenStar booth in the Global Village.

On Wednesday, GRS was featured in the Global Village at the MenStar booth, where delegates engaged in live demonstrations of our SKILLZ Health activities. MenStar is a $1.2 billion global partnership, launched at the conference, focused on expanding the diagnoses and treatment of HIV infections in men, particularly among young men in sub-Saharan Africa. Alongside the participatory demos, GRS led a session explaining our work targeting adolescent boys and young men.



HIVShares blog post from Bheki Moyo, GRS Zimbabwe Managing Director

HIVShares blog post from Taonga Tembo Kennedy, GRS Zambia Training Fellow and Master Coach

Devex Article on Launch of MenStar Coalition

Alternative Africa: Amsterdam Welcomes the World to AIDS 2018

Overall, AIDS 2018 was an incredible week of learning, engaging, and sharing with health experts, implementers, policy-makers, advocates, youth leaders, and partners from around the world!


The Grassroot Soccer delegation to AIDS 2018.

The Grassroot Soccer delegation to AIDS 2018.