‘Health Goals Malawi’ is a three-year project using football as a convenor to engage adolescent and young males aged 14-24 with health services, particularly HIV self-testing. The project aims to reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in Malawi, by raising awareness of support services and educating young people about the risks. The project works in partnership with Liverpool Football Club Foundation (LFC), the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW) and Population Services International (PSI) to support local community leaders and coached to engage with local youth, who are predominantly hard to reach, and the least likely to access health education and services such as self-testing and treatment plans.
The project used the appeal of football to attract adolescent boys and young men to events attended by HIV self-test providers. Football games helped to deliver health messages about HIV and to increase knowledge about HIV transmission, prevention, testing and treatment.
Local community leaders and coaches were supported to promote HIV self-testing and to reduce the stigma and fear of testing by normalising the discussion of HIV self-testing, through football coaching and matches. Working in partnership with Liverpool Football Club Foundation, MLW, Population Services International (PSI) and role models, such as Sadio Mané from Liverpool Football Club, the project raised awareness of support services to engage and educate young people – the least likely to access health and education services - about self-testing and treatment plans.
Young people accounted for 30% of new HIV infections in Malawi in 2016 and HIV testing rates amongst adolescents are low, with only 24% of young men and 42% of young women report having tested in the last year. HIV self-testing helps to break down the fear of HIV testing by giving users an opportunity to test themselves at home and in private. This gives users an initial insight into their status before they access services in a clinical setting.
Over 3,300 self-testing kits were distributed through the football sessions, and the percentage of participants reporting recently testing for HIV increased from 53% to 83%, likely to result in the long-term reduction of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. In addition, the project has had a broader impact on the role of women and girls in sporting spaces in Malawi, through proactivity including women and girls in the project. This has increased the number of girls taking part in football and has helped change mindsets about the capabilities of women and girls.