U.S. Athletes, Sports Leagues Should Increase HIV/AIDS Advocacy Programs, Opinion Piece Says
While sports have been a "vehicle" for disseminating HIV/AIDS advocacy, prevention and education information in Africa and developing countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, it is "difficult to find" many such programs in the U.S., Shannon Shelton -- a Detroit Free Press sportswriter who recently traveled to Ifrane, Morocco, for the U.N. Second Pan-African Youth Leadership Summit -- writes in a Free Press opinion piece. Some U.S. sports leagues donate to or sponsor HIV/AIDS-related programs, but the National Basketball Association's Basketball Without Borders project is one of the few leaguewide programs that addresses the disease, Shelton says, adding that the outreach for that program occurs in foreign countries. Some individual athletes -- such as Magic Johnson and Dikembe Mutombo -- "crusade for the cause," but the country's "national squeamishness about discussing sex and lingering beliefs that AIDS affects only certain populations (i.e. homosexuals and drug users) often prevents national figures from" speaking about the disease, Shelton says. "Americans young and old still cling to a belief in athletes as role models, as purveyors of the values of hard work and sacrifice that we like to hold dear," Shelton writes, adding that having "athletes and leagues provide greater visibility on this issue could go a long way toward erasing the AIDS stigma in this country and encourage more Americans to make smarter choices about sexual activity" (Shelton, Detroit Free Press, 9/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.