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UNIS/NAR/734
14 January 2002

Basketball Star Dikembe Mutombo Featured In New HIV-Aids Awareness Campaign

VIENNA, 14 January (UN Information Service) – The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) today jointly released a new worldwide public service announcement (PSA) featuring basketball player Dikembe Mutombo. The PSA helps to educate young people about the links between drug abuse and HIV-AIDS.

"Using condoms and not sharing needles are intelligent decisions that can help you live a longer, healthier life," said Mutombo in the PSA. "Through education we can learn more about the prevention of HIV and AIDS and together we can help stop the spread of this epidemic." ODCCP is a partner in UNAIDS. According to the latest estimates some three million people died from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses in 2001. Globally, more than 40 million people are living with HIV. More than 28 million of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The PSA was filmed in English and French and dubbed into Portuguese and Swahili. It will be shown during NBA programming internationally and through United Nations television contacts. A poster, featuring Mutombo and the message "Sports. Not Drugs", will be distributed to youngsters around the world through UN field offices. Mutombo is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a special emphasis on getting his message out will take place in Africa.

"Drug abuse and unprotected sex are major causes of HIV in young people," said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "Dikembe Mutombo’s stature and popularity among basketball fans make him an ideal person to carry these messages to youth, not only in his home country of Congo, but around the world."

"We are proud to partner with the United Nations to deliver this important message to young people around the world," said Kathleen Behrens, NBA Vice President, Community Relations. "Dikembe’s commitment to helping others is a great example of how the NBA family is working together to make a difference in all of our communities."

Mutombo (7’ 2" / 218cm) is a member of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team and four-time recipient of the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. He graduated from Georgetown University with degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy. He also serves as a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Youth Emissary where he has been actively involved in working with young people.

The PSA marks the third year of collaboration between ODCCP and the NBA. Prior media awareness campaigns featured Vlade Divac (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sacramento Kings) and Eduardo Nájera (Mexico, Dallas Mavericks). ODCCP and the NBA also worked together to create a camp for children from the Balkans, Basketball without Borders, in the summer of 2001.

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For more information, please contact:
Zach Messitte, United Nations, messitte@un.org, (212) 963-2710
Helen Wong, NBA, hwong@nba.com, (212) 407-8299

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