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Goodwill Ambassador Hong Myung-bo praises Thailand’s HIV efforts

29 October 2012
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UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Mr Myung-Bo Hong (second from left) was accompanied on the visit to Thailand by his two sons: 12-year-old Jeongmin (left) and 14-year-old Seongmin, standing next to UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. © UNAIDS

(UNAIDS) – South Korean football star Hong Myung-bo—a UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador—described his HIV fact-finding visit to Thailand this week as an “eye-opening experience” and a great learning opportunity.

“I’ve been able to see first-hand the tremendous work that UNAIDS and its partners are doing in Thailand and across Asia,” said Mr Hong, who played for South Korea’s national football team in four consecutive World Cups (1990-2002) and is currently Korea’s Olympic Football Team coach.

“A football match lasts 90 minutes and even if you are leading in the first half, you can still lose the match,” said Mr Hong, adding, “We cannot afford to drop the ball” in terms of HIV awareness.

During his five-day mission, Mr Hong visited community organizations and met with members of key affected populations in the national HIV epidemic, including female sex workers at the Empower Foundation—a national non-governmental organization that protects the rights of female sex workers.

Mr Hong pledged to share impressions and highlights from the visit on his return to South Korea with key stakeholders and to underline the importance of shared responsibility and continued funding for the AIDS response. While connecting with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in Bangkok, he shared his plan to arrange a charity football match in December to raise money for AIDS-related projects in the region.

“The power of sport is impressive and can be an agent for change, especially for young people,” said Mr Sidibé, who was in Thailand as part of a three-country official mission in South-East Asia. “Mr. Hong is a compelling voice to empower young people to protect themselves from HIV—to address stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV.”

During his visit to Thailand, Mr Hong took part in a football training session for coaches organized by Thailand’s National Olympic Committee and the Physical Education Institute.

Mr Hong was accompanied on the visit to Thailand by his two sons, 14-year-old Seongmin Hong and Jeongmin, aged 12. While meeting with Mr Sidibé, Seongmin presented the Executive Director with a US$ 3000 donation, which he had raised at an art exhibit for AIDS.

Mr Sidibé applauded the young man’s initiative: “You have made a very powerful gesture. Efforts like yours show that we can be inclusive, tolerant, open and compassionate—that we can all work together to stop HIV.”

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