Using Soccer to Decrease the Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa


Number (per year) Rank in World
HIV/AIDS Adult Prevalence Rate 18.1% 4
People Living with HIV/AIDS 5.7 million 2
HIV/AIDS Deaths 350,000 1

Those are some staggering figures.  Ranked first in the world for deaths from HIV/AIDS is a designation that no country wishes to earn.  Individuals throughout South Africa and the world have recognized the importance of this growing issue and many have organized together with the goal of combating this issue.  The result has been many organizations dedicated to reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS through a variety of manners.

Grassroot Soccer has employed an innovative and different strategy to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa.  The organization’s purpose is to employ soccer as a vehicle for educating youth about HIV and AIDS.  The organization strives to use football, or what Americans call soccer, “to have a significant impact on the prevention of HIV/AIDS”  (Grassroot Soccer website).  Grassroot Soccer now operates in four countries, South Africa being one of them.

The organization’s South Africa branch provides education to the country’s youth on risks and prevention.  It bases this curriculum around soccer, as it is a vital and popular part of the culture and is an enjoyable, positive activity for youth.  “Soccer teams and leagues are ubiquitous structures in even the most impoverished areas” (Grassroot Soccer website).  Often times, Grassroot Soccer’s approach is able to reach youth that traditional methods have failed to reach.  The professional soccer players and coaches that are integral to the program serve as role models for the children and are therefore able “to get the message out about healthy behavior and the risks of HIV” to “break stigmas, drastically increase awareness, change behaviors, and turn the tide against HIV” (Grassroot Soccer website).

Perhaps the most important feature of soccer, and one that Grassroot Soccer tries to capitalize on, is its ability to forge strong relationships and friendships among individuals.  Soccer brings people together around a mutual passion, helping bonds to develop between diverse individuals.  In an extremely diverse country like South Africa, this is incredibly important.

Grassroot Soccer understands the importance of the organization within the broader context of the environments in which it operates.  One of the principles of its’ Social Learning Theory is that “it takes a village”  (Grassroot Soccer website).  As a result, the organization engages in community events and long-term partnerships with community establishments.  By recognizing the importance of such actions, and demonstrating the ways in which they can help shape the organization, Grassroot Soccer exhibits principles of the open system perspective of organizational theory.

With South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup, there is a great opportunity for Grassroot Soccer “to highlight the power of soccer as an educational tool and raise the world’s awareness of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic” (Grassroot Soccer website).  For example, one of Grassroot Soccer’s ten sites throughout South Africa is in Port Elizabeth, which has some of the highest HIV rates in South Africa and is one of the World Cup sites.  This organization is one of only a few working in that area for HIV prevention, so there are ample opportunities for publicity of Grassroot Soccer’s efforts in order to raise awareness.  Once again, by leveraging the environmental and contextual standing of the organization, this time as an organization within the country hosting the upcoming World Cup, Grassroot Soccer is able to accomplish great things and better South Africa.

The success of Grassroot Soccer in South Africa demonstrates that how an organization needs to operates to reach its’ target market or audience is contingent upon the environment in which it resides.  In the case of Grassroot Soccer, the mission, to fight HIV and AIDS, is derived based on the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the countries it works in.  Furthermore, the manner of reaching the children, which is through soccer, is based on the local culture and the marketing efforts and initiatives are correlated with the local community activities.

After going through the Grassroot Soccer program, the percentage of students who could list three people that they could talk to about HIV increased from 33% to 72% and the percentage of students who believed condoms were effective increased from 52% to 73%.

Perhaps traditional methods of promoting HIV/AIDS awareness are not properly suited to South Africa and so more organizations should develop untraditional approaches like Grassroot Soccer, as has begun to occur.  Thoughts?


6 Responses

  1. It’s encouraging to see how the numbers of success of the Grassroots Soccer Program in South Africa already. If the program makes correct use of the World Cup, I think those numbers could shoot up even higher.
    South Africa also has worries though that the World Cup could jump up infection rates. The South African Minister of Health warned citizens of the possible implications of having so many people at this event.
    Hopefully, South African officials will have the funds and sense to use the event as a large-scale education effort and continue to make a stand against HIV/AIDS.

    • I agree that hopefully the event will be used as a positive for the country! There are many potential concerns, but hopefully the pros will outweigh the cons.

  2. Speaking of South Africa and the World Cup, should we be worried about potential power blackouts during the tournament due to the excess use of power needed to keep the venues running? South Africa has recently been experiencing widespread blackouts as a result of the South African electricity grid becoming overwhelmed by rising demand. Certainly demand is going to rise during the tournament. Should this be a concern??

    • I was unaware of such an issue, but a quick search shows me that you are not the only one concerned about this. However, Eskom, the state power company is assuring people that they can meet World Cup needs:

  3. […] Up Using Soccer to Decrease the Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South AfricaWhere was the home of the DoDo Bird??Wal-mart's Going Green and Still Making More MoneyGames of […]

  4. Though noble, I think we as Americans, especially now, should not be concerning ourselves with foreign problems. when we have so many problems here at home. If we are to truly be successful in helping others, we have to have solved our problems first. I’m unsure as to how we should be involved in other countries matters when we cannot even run our own country.

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