Abuja – The UNAIDS on Monday appointed President Goodluck Jonathan as Face of Protect the Goal, a global initiative to use football to reinforce messages on HIV prevention and treatment.
Dr Djibril Diallo of UNAIDS in New York disclosed this at the launch of “Protect the Goals’’ at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
With this development, Diallo said UNAIDS was inviting the President to be the special guest of the “Protect the Goal Campaign’’ during the global launch on June 9, in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
At the ceremony, he said the President would hand over the “Protect the Goal’’ ball to the President of Brazil, thereby illustrating the slogan of the campaign “From Soweto to Bahia.’’
He said Jonathan should also assist with the promotion of the “Protect the Goal Campaign’’ among other Heads of State while in Brazil.
He urged the President to assist in the appointment of the Super Eagles as Protect the Goal Ambassadors.
Diallo said that the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin, had a vision of a world without new HIV infection, discrimination and AIDS related deaths.
“Protect the Goal Campaign” seeks to achieve this vision through the power of sports and culture.’’
Diallo said the appointment of Jonathan was in recognition of his contributions towards the fight against HIV and AIDS scourge and the Nigerian position as African Champion in football.
“Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. At the same time Mr. President, I am very pleased to acknowledge your comprehensive Response Plan for HIV in Nigeria.
“This comprehensive response plan provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to join hands and march towards the end of AIDS.
The UNAIDS representative disclosed that an estimated 5.4 million adolescents and young people were living with HIV of which 1.8 million were eligible for treatment.
He said that millions of people did not know that they were living with the virus.
“Every day, some 2,100 youths become infected, accounting for 36% of all new HIV infections throughout the world.
“It is this sentiment that UNAIDS “Protect the Goal Campaign” is based upon.
“Protect the Goal Campaign” has the objectives of raising HIV awareness worldwide, mobilise national and international media and the worlds of sport and culture to strengthen the AIDS response.
He said the initiative was also to accelerate progress in HIV prevention, particularly among young people.
The President signed the “Protect the Goal’’ ball.
Diallo said the ball had been signed by Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa which hosted the last World Cup and Paul Biya of Cameroon.
He said the ball would also be signed by the Presidents of Ghana, Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire – the three other African countries that qualified for 2014 World Cup.
Diallo said the ball would be used in a special event during the UN General Assembly in September in New York, with the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary General of the United Nations.
President Jonathan accepted the appointment and promised to support the initiative.
He noted that sport was a powerful weapon for social change and that football in particular was a uniting factor among Nigerians.
“I, therefore, wholly support this initiative which seeks to harness the convening power of football as a tool to support HIV interventions in our country’’, he said.
The President called on state governors to take the lead in the fight against HIVAIDS.
NAN reports that there were goodwill messages from the UNFPA and the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF).
The event was attended by some members of the Super Eagles, the Supporters Club Association and some Nollywood actors. (NAN)