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
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."