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Can the world cup combat AIDS in Africa? 0

JOHANNESBURG — The World Cup has drawn enormous attention to the Rainbow Nation, and it also provided a platform for the global community to help South Africa with its most glaring health problem – the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

From famous football stars, corporations, NGOs, and the government, efforts have been undertaken to tackle this issue.

During the World Cup, the top football stars including Matthew Booth, Teko Modise, Lionel Messi, and Thierry Henri stood out to promote safe sex and urge men to get tested for HIV and AIDS, beside their first mission of winning football matches.

The sport stars’ participated in the Brothers for Life campaign, funded by the United States government in cooperation with the South African government and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund.

“These sports leaders set an example and send the messages that men must take responsibility for their own behaviour if we are going to stop the scourge of HIV and AIDS,” said the US Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips. “We must defeat HIV and AIDS.”

Nike’s most influential spokesman Kobe Bryant visited the Football Training Center in Soweto as a promoter last week. The centre, which is part of Nike’s commitment to the communities of South Africa, aims to offer training opportunities for 20,000 young footballers per year, while also providing them with access to HIV and AIDS education.

“So to be in South Africa for the first time and see how Nike is utilizing sport to inspire youth and educate them around HIV and AIDS is amazing,” said Bryant.  “It’s crystal clear that this center will help keep kids out of trouble, improve their game, as well as empower them with the life skills they need to live better and HIV free.”

NGOs, both foreign and domestic, are fighting to raise people’s awareness of the serious situation and educate people on how to prevent HIV and AIDS prevention.

Bridges of Hope, an NGO which is a part of the Brazil’s anti-AIDS campaign in South Africa, toured in several of Johannesburg’s communities in a HIV and AIDS themed bus. The group distributed condoms and gave information to the local population of the ways to prevent AIDS and STDs.

Although such efforts may be relatively small scale and piecemeal, said Peter Labouchere, founder of Bridges of Hope, they could still have an impact in South Africa after the World Cup ends.

“The one fundamental difference that the successful hosting of the World Cup by South Africa may have achieved in terms of HIV prevention,” said Labouchere, “is in boosting, at a national and individual level, a positive sense of identity and self-worth as a South African citizen.  The way we behave is consistent with the sort or person we consider ourselves to be – our identity.”

Britain is one of several governments who gave resources for HIV and AIDS awareness in South Africa; they sent more than 42 million condoms to South Africa just before the World Cup began. The United States, who has been South Africa’s principal donor in the fight against AIDS, gave the country $620 million this year, according to the New York Times.

In South Africa, 18 percent of the population is HIV positive and the number of cases has been disproportionately concentrated among women and girls. This year, the government has made promises to further enlarge the number of hospitals and clinics that can dispense AIDS medicine for free, and has already trained the hundreds of nurses to prescribe drugs — formerly the province of doctors.

But there are still some criticisms among the public. Compared with the tremendous money the governments spend on the construction of the World Cup stadiums, the efforts they devoted to dealing with AIDS and HIV problems is far from enough, according to some media sources.

FIFA believes there is going to be an increased effort to fight against AIDS and HIV in South Africa after the World Cup both medically and socially, according Federico Addiechi, the head of FIFA Corporate Social Responsibility Department.

“HIV is present as a focus in most of the organizations and NGOs we are working with, and who are hosting and managing these centres,” said Addiechi to Reuters.

The FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre has begun to open centres for sports medicine and sports-related public health interventions on the African continent. And in 2007 FIFA launched the Football for Hope centres, which will partly work with kids who HIV positive.

However, some said they wished FIFA had done even more during the World Cup.

“In the build up to the World Cup initiatives to provide HIV-related education, services and condoms around stadiums and in fan parks during the world cup were very limited and sometimes restricted by FIFA,” said Labouchere. “This was a great opportunity to some extent missed…”


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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi