Four British athletes and one world class coach will join forces with the national Saving Lives team to mark the launch of “Sport Saving Lives” this weekend at the UK Athletics championships at the Alexander Stadium Birmingham.
Sport Saving Lives is an arm of the national HIV awareness campaign Saving Lives, which emphasizes the importance of regular and routine testing in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV.
Julian Thomas and Somto Eruchie, both sprinters with the Birchfield Harriers, a team based at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, are tipped for big things at the UK Championships – to be held at their home ground this weekend and are proud ambassadors of the new campaign.
While preparing for the 200m event, Julian Thomas is also fronting the campaign: “If we can get more people tested regularly, we could not only their lives but also those of their partners. Sport Saving Lives is not just a good cause – it’s helping tackle HIV, a pressing public health issue.”
Dr Steve Taylor, Medical Director of the Saving Lives Trust and an HIV consultant at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital said: “One in four of those with HIV in the UK are unaware they are infected. This means they are not diagnosed, can’t access life-saving treatment and may go on to infect others unknowingly.An HIV test would rectify that.”
Somto Eruchie added: “By breaking down the barriers that surround talking about HIV, we can communicate some very simple messages which have potentially very big effects. If you catch HIV early, just as with diabetes, it can be treated and managed very successfully.”
By wearing the campaign’s logo on their kit and championing its messages in the media, the athletes have one eye on the London Olympics and the other on improving the sexual health of a nation.
National speed coach Tony Hadley added: “It’s a pleasure to coach these boys. This weekend is an important event for Julian, currently in the UK top 10, as it could see him rise up the ranking, increasing his positioning amongst the UK elite athletes, and helping him progress his ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.
“The profiles of our athletes are a great vehicle for getting messages out there to the wider public, and this is especially important with important public health concern such as HIV. Public knowledge about the availability and importance of HIV testing needs to be increased by raising general awareness: supporting a campaign such as this is the perfect opportunity for us to help do that.”
Jordanna Freemantle, British Womens’ Benchpress Champion and pentathelete Ros Gonse are also competing to further the cause
This weekend, the athletes hope not only to win their races, but help the HIV campaign in their own race to save lives. .