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UN teams up with basketball stars to fight AIDS

Making kids champions: UN agencies team up with basketball stars to fight AIDS

United Nations agencies today teamed up with the premier basketball league in the United States to launch a global campaign aimed at mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and halting the spread of the virus through public service announcements (PSAs) that will air during championship games, reaching hundreds of millions of fans worldwide.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) NBA Cares Foundation are working in tandem to advance UNICEF’s initiative ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS.’

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot praised the initiative for its wide reach. “AIDS is not only a make or break issue for my generation, but for today’s young people too.”

“Partnering with the NBA Cares can help us make the world understand, that AIDS is not just affecting adults, but it is also having a devastating impact on children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, adding that the PSAs “will bring much needed attention to some alarming facts.”

Noting that children consider athletes heroes and role models, she voiced appreciation for the support of the famous athletes. “We are grateful to the players who are lending their name, their talents, and fame to this cause; they are all champions in their own right, but the real winners will be the children around the world.”

The drive, she said, aims to directly benefit the next generation. “At the heart of the campaign is the idea that partnerships can help leverage resources and achieve results for children,” she said.

Also addressing participants was Dikembe Mutombo, the Houston Rockets center and a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “AIDS is not just a problem in Africa, it is a world problem,” he said.

NBA Commissioner David Stern emphasized the influence of professional athletes on and off the court. “We know that our sport, indeed all sports, has an enormous opportunity to deliver important messages on a global basis and this collaboration with UNICEF is just another step in our on-going commitment to engage our players and our game in the battle against HIV and AIDS.”

“I am very proud to be associated” with the initiative, he said, calling the ads “the best use of the power of sports” imaginable.

Kimberly Canedy, a 19-year old woman who is HIV positive, stressed that youth are a part of the solution. “As young person with HIV my message to you is simple: We all have two choices, stay on the sidelines and watch it happen, or to become active participants in the future of this disease,” she declared.

“I refuse to sit by and watch, I choose to be involved and to speak out today. We all need to do our part,” added the teen, a participant of the Family Adolescent and Children’s Experience (FACES) in Brooklyn.

The 30-second public service announcement (PSA), produced by NBA Entertainment and the US Fund for UNICEF, features various popular NBA/Women’s NBA (WNBA) players using alarming statistics to underscore the impact of the global AIDS crisis on children. There are currently approximately 2.3 million children under 15 living with HIV, 2 million of them living in sub-Saharan Africa.

The PSA will air worldwide in nine spots, in 215 countries and territories during the NBA Conference Finals in June, in five different languages and reach an estimated 750 million people.

The NBA and UNICEF multi-lingual global PSA launched today features an array of star players who hail from across the world.

These include Mr. Mutombo; two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns (Canada); Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (China); Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (US); five-time NBA All-Star and Dallas Mavericks center Dirk Nowitzki (Germany); Utah Jazz five-year veteran Andrei Kirilenko (Russia); and WNBA stars Swin Cash of the Detroit Shock (US) and Becky Hammond of the New York Liberty (US).

The NBA and UNICEF have partnered in several other initiatives, such as the Association’s international Basketball without Borders programme, which includes UNICEF-led HIV/AIDS interactive educational seminars, and in the distribution of the NBA/UNICEF “Skills for Life in a Box” to school children.

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