Preventing HIV in World Cup

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• Wolfgang Eichler
Fifa Media Officer
+27 11 567 2010
+27 83 2010 471
• Delia Fischer
Fifa Media Officer
+27 11 567 2010
+27 11 567 2524
+27 83 201 0470
fax +27 (0)11 567 2559
• Jermaine Craig
Media Manager
2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa Local
Organising Committee
+27 11 567 2010
+27 83 201 0121

In June and July 2010 South Africa will host the world’s biggest single sporting event – the Fifa World Cup. This will not only give the country a golden opportunity to reach millions of football fans for its business and tourism sectors, but also for its efforts to combat HIV/Aids.

Health officials, activists and civil society organisations met in Johannesburg in 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 organisations involved to work with each other and Fifa and its local organising committee (LOC) to avoid duplication of efforts and confused messaging was emphasised.

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 organisations to channel any planned HIV activities through the LOC.

Through its Football for Hope programme, Fifa is already partnering with civil society organisations 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 organisations 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.”