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April 8, 2009

University Athletes Promote HIV Awareness in DC

Varsity athletes at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, formed an HIV prevention group called Grassroot Hoyas that teaches inner city youth about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, university newspaper The Hoya reports. To convey its messages, the group uses athletic games, such as one named HIV Attacks.

At least 3 percent of DC residents are HIV positive, according to a recent epidemiology report conducted by The George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services.

“Through Grassroot Hoyas, athletes are able to use a medium, sports, that they care about to reach kids in a powerful way, right in our backyard,” said Tyler Spencer, founder of Grassroot Hoyas. Spencer was inspired to form the group based on his recent work with Grassroots Soccer, an international organization that uses the sport to spread HIV awareness among African youth.

“Whether [the varsity athletes] end up going pro, going to Wall Street or to law or med school, the hope is that by being a coach in the program they will become more conscious of public health, education and other social issues,” Spencer added.

About 40 athletes volunteered to train for Grassroots Hoyas. The group conducts outreach at two different public schools in DC, reaching fifth- through eighth-graders during after-school programs.

According to the article, HIV Attacks calls for most players to form a circle. The players around the circle hold balls that represent various diseases. Two players without balls are allowed to be in the middle of the ring. One of the students without a ball represents the immune system; his or her job is to protect the other player in the middle. However, coaches then take the immune system out of the game, creating a situation by which the person in the middle contracts HIV/AIDS.

Search: Georgetown University, Grassroot Soccer, Grassroot Hoyas

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