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Holyport GP helps tackle HIV through football

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

A globetrotting charity worker and retired Holyport GP has been helping to educate young men in Tanzania on the dangers of HIV – using the country’s passion for football.

Jenny Langdon was a GP at Holyport Surgery before retiring five years ago.

Since then, she has been working overseas for the Vine Trust, including on the islands of Lake Victoria.

The Vine Trust is a charity providing care support to communities living in severe poverty.

Its ships provide medical services to people who otherwise have limited access.

Most of its patients are living on the equivalent of 75p a day.

Dr Langdon has just returned from the islands of Lake Victoria, where the rate of HIV in the population runs at 30-40 per cent. This is five times higher than the mainland.

The programme originally began helping women gain financial independence to protect themselves against HIV. The next challenge was to educate young men.

The crew of the Jubilee Hope, the ship that delivers medical care, hit upon the idea that football could be used to engage young men on the subject of HIV.

“The Island Football Club is the answer,” said Dr Langdon.

“Football is an obsession with the islanders.”

The club became a registered team in January, with a trained coach who used to play professionally for Tanzania. It is planning to take part in the Tanzanian Premier League.

The club will have a children’s team, a teenagers’ team and an adults’ team, encompassing all genders.

Anyone on the teams must live by the rules of clean living: no drugs and alcohol, and no unprotected sex.

After matches and training, the team talk about HIV. In turn, team members can help spread the message to friends or crewmates on fishing boats, as footballers are treated with great respect by the islanders.

“It raises self esteem and island pride, in a way that is inspirational to watch,” said Dr Langdon “The project is very close to my heart. Although these people are largely forgotten by their own government, they will never be forgotten by me.”

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