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South Africa: World Cup to help create HIV awareness




 

JOHANNESBURG, 19 November 2009 (PlusNews) - In less than seven months South Africa will host the world's biggest single sporting event - the FIFA World Cup. The chance to reach millions of local and visiting football fans presents a golden opportunity, not only for the country's business and tourism sectors, but also for its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

Health officials, activists and civil society organisations met in Johannesburg on 18 November to plan how to make the most of the event, which will span 30 days and take place in eight of South Africa's nine provinces.

Recent international media reports have suggested that the World Cup could aggravate the country's already severe HIV/AIDS epidemic, but several speakers saw the event as a chance to address the health crisis, among them former soccer player Ronny Zondi, who represented the Sport and Entertainment Sector of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), the body coordinating HIV activities linked to the World Cup.

Stadiums, fan parks, hotels and bars are all potential venues where HIV prevention messages could be promoted, condoms and pamphlets distributed, and voluntary counselling and HIV testing made available. The need for all the organizations involved to work with each other and FIFA and its local organizing committee (LOC) to avoid duplication of efforts and confused messaging was emphasized.

LOC Chief Medical Officer Dr Victor Ramathesele urged participants to tap into FIFA's marketing expertise to push HIV/AIDS messages before and during the World Cup.

Noluntu Ntloko, from FIFA's marketing division, briefed participants on restrictions on the use of registered World Cup trademarks, or branding that could conflict with that of its sponsors and commercial partners, and encouraged organizations to channel any planned HIV activities through the LOC.

Through its Football for Hope Movement, FIFA is already partnering with civil society organizations involved in HIV/AIDS initiatives. One such partner, Grassroots Soccer, works with a local NGO, Sonke Gender Justice, to train soccer coaches to teach young people about HIV and AIDS.

Rather than limiting their efforts to duration of the event, several organizations are planning campaigns that will last the entire year and reach people all over the continent.

Wayne Alexander, of Dance4Life, an international initiative that enlists young people to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, told the meeting about Fair Play for Africa, a campaign to mobilise communities to advocate for quality healthcare for all Africans, and to hold their governments accountable for health provision. So far 200 NGOs have committed to getting involved and activities in 12 African countries are planned for 2010.

"We have come a long way," commented Dr Robin Petersen, chair of the Johannesburg meeting, who recalled that when South Africa started planning its World Cup bid 10 years ago, there was pressure to downplay the HIV/AIDS epidemic. "We're now planning to use this event to address one of the most significant crises our country is facing."



 


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Information in this article was accurate in November 19, 2009. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.