There are about 2.8 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV. Two million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. The National Basketball Association and UNICEF together are trying to raise awareness about those numbers.
Children living with HIV are dealing with a problem that is as heartbreaking as it is deadly.
"My mother contracted AIDS through drug use,” said 19-year-old student Kimberly Canady. “Due to that, I had to live with my grandmother my whole life.”
Kimberly added, “My mother died when I was nine, and that's when I found out that I was HIV positive. I thought that my life was going to end and I was going to die."
Kimberly Canady kept her diagnosis secret throughout high school until the burden became too much for a teenager to carry alone. Now getting ready to start college, Canady seeks to overcome her own obstacles by helping others.
She is a spokesperson for the HIV positive, and one of the millions of reasons the National Basketball Association is joining with UNICEF to help children living with AIDS.
AIDS is an international issue, close to the heart of Houston Rockets center and Congo native Dikembe Mutumbo
"Myself being from the continent that's been touched by this epidemic, where we have more than 20 million people die from HIV and AIDS, and we have more than 40 million people living with the virus alone, and we have many, many children that have been left behind as orphans,” Mutumbo said, “I have engaged myself in this fight."
Mutumbo has established a hospital in his name in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He's also using the airwaves to help spread the word about HIV and AIDS.
Mutumbo is joined by NBA and WNBA stars in public service announcements which debut in June during the NBA Finals.
If the athletes seem larger than life to some of these kids, height has something to do with it.
As they tower above the fans, they also raise the NBA's effort to spread the word about a problem not fully appreciated by a younger generation, the main target of the television advertisements.
Dr. Peter Piot, Undersecretary General of the United Nations said, “To reach young people, there are two major ways. That’s sports and music.”
Piot added, “This is going to go a very long way, and I know it's also going to have an impact outside the United States."
The commercials will be translated to air in other countries, where NBA games reach a global audience of more than 700 million households, including the home countries of many of the game's international stars.
"We are going to do nine different spots in five languages -- English, Mandarin, Spanish, Russian and German -- that will be produced for the campaign,” said league commissioner David Stern. “The NBA games being seen in 215 countries, wherever these can be inserted in whatever the appropriate language is, this will be done.
The "Unite for Children - Unite against AIDS" campaign comes on the 25th anniversary of the recognition of AIDS as a disease in the United States. Today, more people are living with the disease, if they can afford treatment.
One of the main goals of the current campaign is to get more pediatric AIDS treatment. According to UNICEF's research, less than five percent of HIV-positive children who need that treatment have access to it.