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Ball game shows kids how HIV attacks
Immune system tries to fight with no hands
The Grassroot Project program was adapted from curriculum implemented across sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where it was more commonly known as Grassroot Soccer.
In its first manifestation in the United States, the Washington, DC-based program uses ball games to teach children how the HIV/AIDS epidemic spreads.
The intervention is based around sports, and it's taught by college athlete volunteers, says Tyler Spencer, founder and director of Grassroot Project.
"These are interactive, participatory games," Spencer says. "The students learn different key messages about HIV, and one of the games is HIV Attack."
Here's how HIV Attack works:
"The human body gets hit less because the ART prevents the virus from doing its job," Spencer says.
The game quickly moves from a simple demonstration and fun game to a complex game with complex messages, he says.
"You challenge kids to understand that this is what happens when you get HIV," he says. "We show them that this is why people with HIV have to take their drugs every day."
At the end of the participatory game session, coaches help students personalize the message by leading discussions about people they might know who have HIV and sharing their stories about these relationships.
The program has another game that demonstrates how people cannot tell who has the virus and who doesn't.
This game has students lined up in two lines facing each other. Each child is shoulder to shoulder and has their hands behind their backs. The coach puts a ball in the hands of one member of each team and asks the students to pass the ball from one to another without saying who has it. Meanwhile, they need to guess who has the ball on the other team. The ball represents HIV infection, so whoever holds the ball is HIV positive.
Students will guess incorrectly who has the ball, and the coach then explains that they also would not be able to guess who has HIV infection just by looking at them. The game leads to a discussion about HIV testing and myths involving the disease and transmission.
As the program's curriculum continues, students eventually talk about social issues affecting HIV transmission and the stigma of having HIV, Spencer says.