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Brazilian football legend Pele joined Gabon's "CAN without AIDS" Campaign

February 15, 2012
UNAIDS - 15 February 2012

On 10 February 2012, Brazilian football legend Pele took thousands of young people by storm during a beach soccer tournament organized in Gabon alongside the 2012 Coupe d'Afrique des Nations (or "CAN"). After the tournament, "O Rei" Pele joined President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and the First Lady at a beach event organized as part of the "CAN without AIDS" campaign.

The campaign, launched by the Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Foundation--a charitable organization run by Gabon's First Lady--uses sports as a platform to reach millions of people with messages on HIV prevention across Africa, particularly youth. The campaign received support from UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe as well as Cameroonian football star Samuel Eto'o and Didier Ovono, captain of Gabon's national football team.

The beach tournament brought together more than 400 young Gabonese to kick off the last round of the youth-focused AIDS campaign events. Pele greeted the cheering crowds who were wearing T-shirts with HIV prevention messages.

The host of the event elaborated on the UNAIDS vision of "three zeroes"--Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths--while volunteers were distributing condoms and information on HIV. Gabon has an HIV prevalence of 3.5% among young women aged 15 to 24 and 1.4% among young men of the same age.

"I am ever grateful to the First Lady for her leadership in bringing together national authorities, celebrities and young people to share HIV prevention messages through sport," said Salvator Niyonzima, UNAIDS Country Coordinator. "UNAIDS will continue to work with the First Lady's Foundation beyond the CAN 2012 tournament to make the "three zeroes" vision a reality in Gabon," he added.

Winners of the tournament were rewarded with front seats at the final of the 2012 African cup, where the president of Gabon had unveiled a statue representing Pele's bust and dedicated it to him.

Timed with the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, the "CAN without AIDS" campaign reached more than 43 000 local people, of which more than 1000 took free HIV screening tests. The campaign will now focus, with support from UNAIDS, on the national HIV response in Gabon, with each quarter of the year dedicated to one of the "three zeroes." Region/country Gabon - Related feature stories Asia-pacific nations pledge equal partnership with communities for accelerated regional AIDS action (10 February 2012) - "Hear our voice" say young people from key affected populations in Asia-Pacific (07 February 2012) - "CAN without AIDS": reaching youth with HIV prevention messages at the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament (25 January 2012) -