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Miss Universe Contestants Enter Condom Olympics to Tackle HIV

Friday, September 18, 2009 General News J E 4
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Global health organization PSI helps contestants spread HIV prevention messages throughout the world

NASSAU, Bahamas, Aug. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Miss Universe contestants continued preparations for Sunday night's pageant by competing today in the Condom Olympics - tossing water-filled condoms to test their strength and playing "Wild Fire Infection" games that demonstrate the serious side of HIV infection. The games are part of an HIV peer education workshop designed by PSI (Population Services International), a global health organization and partner of the Miss Universe Organization. The event was aimed at inspiring contestants to use their celebrity to spread positive messages about HIV prevention around the world.

After the pageant, the winning contestant will have the opportunity to become an Ambassador of PSI's HIV prevention and education program YouthAIDS, and her colleagues will also be able to return home as YouthAIDS Ambassadors in their own countries. Miss Universe 2008, Dayana Mendoza, used her platform to champion the cause among women, who continue to be disproportionately affected by the disease. In addition to attending star-packed fundraising events, she also met directly with women most affected by the disease when she traveled to Nicaragua and El Salvador to launch national HIV prevention campaigns.

Salorne McDonald, a Behavior Change Communications Manager from PSI/Caribbean Regional, led the training along with his colleague Ava Rampersad.

"Millions of young girls and women across the world look up to Miss Universe and admire the Miss Universe contestants," said Ms. Rampersad. "Now, thanks to today's event, these women will be able to continue being leaders in their communities and around the world, educating young women on HIV prevention and helping them live longer, healthier lives."

The Miss Universe Organization has long been committed to increasing HIV and AIDS awareness and partners with a number of organizations committed to HIV research and education. In March, it announced its official partnership with PSI, a leading implementer of HIV prevention and treatment interventions, known for its innovative educational and behavior change communications campaigns.

The games the contestants played today, along with the Condom Olympics, included one in which peer educators gave each girl a piece of paper and asked them to solicit signatures from the other contestants. Though they didn't realize it, each signature represented an act of sex. Some girls agreed to only share their card with one other person, while others chose not to share their cards at all. After the activity, the girls were told that some of them had been "HIV positive" at the start of the game. Then they tracked, through their signatures, how far the infection had spread. The girls who "abstained" or chose to only have one "partner" found out they had remained "HIV negative". The contestants also learned how to conduct a condom demonstration correctly, and tested the limits of condom breakage by filling condoms with water and blowing them with air until they burst.

For photos and videos of the activities, please contact Marshall Stowell at mstowell@psi.org or Trey Watkins at kcwatkins@psi.org

About PSI

PSI is a leading global health organization with programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health. Working in partnership within the public and private sectors, and harnessing the power of the markets, PSI provides life-saving products, clinical services and behavior change communications that empower the world's most vulnerable populations to lead healthier lives. Learn more at www.psi.org.

SOURCE PSI
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