Tennis star joins AIDS awareness campaign
Normal 0 Kurnikova is convinced that she can raise awareness amongst Russians of the need to take precautions against becoming infected with HIV on a nationwide basis The tennis star, who has been ranked amongst the top ten players in the world, is now a ‘Youth are Central’ personality. This is a project being carried out by the Russian Centre for Social Development and Information (RCSDI) set up by the international health organisation, Population Services International. Kurnikova, now resident in the USA, has paid a five-day visit to a number of towns including St Petersburg and Moscow, where she held a press conference at ITAR-TASS. She spoke of the reasons for her interest in the fight against the HIV epidemic, the project and future work plans. The sportswoman revealed that she had been nursing an ambition to become involved in charitable endeavour for several years now. She had been working with the Boys and Girls Club of America with that aim in mind and had been delighted to accept the job of being a goodwill ambassador. It was in that capacity that she had visited Haiti at the beginning of 2009 and was now touring Russia. The tennis star had been meeting HIV positive drug users in Yekaterinburg, where the fund was providing anonymous tests for the condition and educating students. She also took part in the opening ceremony of a socio-medical centre for young people in Gatchina. Normal 0 ‘I am very proud to have been chosen for this mission’, said Kurnikova. ‘I hope that my reputation as a sportswoman will help to attract the attention of young people.’ As the director of the RCSDI said, the thrust of the project is to popularise the idea of a healthy lifestyle amongst the young in the regions. The project has three main aspects: · Making facilities for spare time activities available like sports grounds, computer classes and art studios. · Information for the young about risks to health and ways of minimising them. · Helping young people to develop the knack of looking after their own health and providing therapy for those who use mind-altering substances and/or are HIV positive. In Gatchina seven centres have been set up under the project with the result, according to the ministry of the interior, that over two years lawbreaking by children in difficulties has noticeably decreased. The model is considered to be suited to a number of Russian regions and the project has been launched in Krasnodar with the support of private businesses. USAID is also providing financial assistance. Its chief executive, Jonathan Kamin, said that the united efforts of state, business and the non-commercial sector were needed to stem the spread of HIV and that the involvement of such a famous figure as Kurnikova was bound to help in that regard.