Combining Soccer with HIV/AIDS, Pregnancy Prevention Spells Success for Girls in Upper, Middle Guinea

KANKAN, GUINEA  — A girls' soccer program in Upper Guinea promoting prevention of HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies proved so successful that UNICEF and the country's Ministry of Youth decided to replicate the program for young adults in Middle Guinea.

The soccer program was developed by the PRISM project as part of its strategy to reach youth with messages designed to prevent HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI), and unwanted pregnancies. Banking on the popularity of sports among Guinean youth, PRISM staff collaborated with local youth authorities and soccer team leaders in Upper Guinea to develop a communication strategy linked to soccer with an emphasis on girls' soccer.

During a series of soccer games, theatre troupes performed sketches with prevention messages during half time, while youth peer educators disseminated messages to the crowd. PRISM displayed banners with the program's slogan, " My right: information. My duty: abstinence or condom," while also distributing pamphlets on STI/HIV/AIDS prevention and unwanted pregnancy prevention.

UNICEF and Guinea 's Ministry of Youth recognized the program's effectiveness in Upper Guinea and decided to collaborate with PRISM to organize a similar initiative in Labé (Middle Guinea), with a soccer tournament held this month celebrating women's rights.

"I want to thank PRISM for supporting youth activities, especially girls' soccer," said Fode Soumah , Guinea 's Minister of Youth and Sports. "I urge other NGOs and projects in the country to do the same."

PRISM supported two teams - the Sankaran Football Club of Faranah and the Hirondelles of Kankan - during the tournament held April 2 to April 10. PRISM also contributed materials, including brochures, banners, T-shirts, and caps. The teams were encouraged to sing songs promoting abstinence, fidelity, and condom use. Each time a goal was scored, the girls would lift their jerseys to display a T-shirt emblazoned with prevention messages.

The two PRISM-supported teams were not only successful at spreading prevention messages at the tournament, they also both made it to the finals with Faranah's Sankaran Football Club taking home the championship.

Local government representatives in Labé now want PRISM to continue its efforts throughout their region. PRISM stands for Pour Renforcer les Interventions en Santé Reproductive et MST/ SIDA, or Strengthening Interventions in Reproductive Health and STD/AIDS Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the project works with the Government of Guinea and is led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/ Center for Communication Programs (CCP).

With representatives in more than 30 countries, Johns Hopkins' CCP partners with organizations worldwide to design and implement strategic communication programs that influence political dialogue, collective action, and individual behavior change; enhance access to information and the exchange of knowledge to improve health and health care; and conduct research to guide program design, evaluate impact, and advance knowledge and practice in health communication.