Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday kicked off a new campaign to fight HIV/AIDS among young people using football as part of the global "Protect the Goal" initiative.

"All we want people to know is that they are the goal and HIV can score into that goal, so it depends on whether you want to it to score or not," Permanent Secretary for the Health Ministry Asuman Lukwago told Anadolu Agency.

Museveni kicked the first ball of a match between his cabinet and lawmakers in a half full Mandela National Stadium in the capital Kampala.

"It is a high level engagement which needed heads of state and the President felt that both Cabinet and Parliamentarians should be involved to guide young people," said Lukwago.

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals held in South Africa, FIFA and the United Nations agreed that football can be used as a symbol for people to fight against HIV.

Lukwago recalled that in 2011 the government noted that the HIV prevalence rate was increasing from 6.4 to 7.3 percent.

"This awakened us and we have put up a lot of efforts," he said.

"What we are now saying is, use all the packages to protect the goal," added the official, citing abstinence and use of condom. "If you are married, be faithful."

He said another focus is on the treatment of mothers.

"Every pregnant mother must be checked of her HIV status and if she is positive we should start them on anti-retroviral immediately," said Lukwago.

The rate of new infections has now been reduced from 160,000 to 130,000 per annum, while the transmission from mother to child has also decreased from 25,000 children born with HIV per year to 8,000, according to Health Ministry figures.

-Youth Religion-

Sheila Dinotshe Tlou, the Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, regretted increasing HIV/AIDS infections among young people.

"We have seen new infections going down in all the countries of the world," she told reporters after playing for the Cabinet side, which lost the game 0-3.

"Among young people who are the majority in Africa the infections are going up," Tlou noted.

The UNAIDS official asserted that the "Protect the Goal" campaign is aimed at young people because football is their religion.

"In the same manner that you protect the goal from somebody scoring, make sure that you protect your body from HIV so that it doesn't score on your body," she said.

The game was followed by a match between the national football squad, nicknamed The Cranes, and Ethiopia where the hosts won 3-0.

Anadolu Agency - Photo: Chimp Reports