Brighton and Hove Albion have linked up with an international charity to use football as a way to tackle HIV/AIDS.
The club’s charitable arm Albion in the Community has joined forces with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, which has its head office in Hove, near the Seven Dials.
This week the two organisations are using the club’s Amex Stadium in Falmer as a base to run the Albion Alliance against AIDS.
The event is an intensive week-long course to train 18 people from 12 developing countries about football and HIV prevention, treatment and care.
The 18 people taking part will learn about ways in which football can be used to reach young people as a means to help stop the spread of HIV.
Sam McPherson, associate director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, said: “Currently, for every one person starting treatment two others are becoming infected.
“The numbers will continue to grow unless we can prevent the spread of HIV in the first place.
“This is an exciting opportunity for two Brighton-based organisations to come together and help support the global fight against the spread of HIV.”
Jacob Naish, head of community cohesion for Albion in the Community, said: “Football is a highly effective method of reaching young people and developing their confidence, skills and understanding of HIV.”
The 18 participants are spending this week developing their skills in football coaching, leadership and their understanding of HIV/AIDS prevention with experts in football and HIV.
Mr Naish said: “We want the participants to go back to their countries confident to tackle not just a football but life and death issues.”
One of those taking part, Cedric Zevallos, is from Port au Prince in Haiti, a city that was devastated by a powerful earthquake last year.
He said: “In Haiti, football is not just a passion but one of the rare tools able to bring together the youth no matter how hard life’s situations are.
“I want to develop my football coaching and HIV communication skills so I can take them back to Haiti and make improvements to how we help prevent HIV through sport.”
Others on the course described how football was a barrier to break down some of the prejudice and ignorance around HIV/AIDS in their home countries.
And they have shared experiences and ideas too, such as mobile testing, something which the Terrence Higgins Trust hopes to pilot here soon.
Albion in the Community and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance said that they hoped that this was the start of what would become an annual event.