Reuters News has reported that Brazilian health officials handed out condoms to World Cup fans in Sao Paulo last Friday, taking advantage of the games and festivities in the city to test people for HIV.
"We can't miss an opportunity like this," Ivone De Paula, told the news agency. De Paula is Sao Paulo state's coordinator for sexually transmitted disease prevention. "The fact that it's the Cup lightens the mood a bit. People say 'Hey I'm going to watch the game, I'm having fun, why not get tested too?'"
The program is part of the UNAIDS "Protect the Goal" HIV/AIDS prevention program. The initiative provides rapid HIV testing and counseling, as well as free condoms and emergency retroviral drugs. It’s also being offered in 11 other cities across Sao Paulo state where visiting World Cup teams are based.
While a giant screen displayed the Cameroon match against Mexico, hundreds of fans went in for testing De Paula stated that for many of them it “was the first time ever.”
"I had no idea this was going to be here, I just came across it," a middle-aged man who asked not to be identified told Reuters. "I wouldn't know where to get tested otherwise, so this helps quite a lot."
The Special Advisor to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Djibril Diallo, explained that the ‘Protect the Goal’ campaign is a global advocacy initiative, involving countries from all continents, including Africa. They hope to harness the power of sports around the 24 teams playing for the FIFA World Cup.
There were many criticisms that not enough was done when the World Cup last met in South Africa in 2010. This year, UNAIDS said it would distribute at least 2 million condoms at World Cups venue. Even that was criticized,
The President of Nigeria Football Supporters’ Club, Dr Rafiu Ladipo, said the UN gesture would barely meet fans’ demand for one day.
Ladipo said that football fans coming to the World Cup would require a cache of about 62 million packs of condoms.
“Are you kidding? Two million condoms will be exhausted in just a day. We must provide more for fans because we are going to Brazil without our wives where we intend to spend on the average of 31 days,’’ he told ThisDayLive.com.
Meanwhile, the UN representative Diallo expressed optimism that the ‘Protect the Goal’ Campaign was worthwhile, saying an “AIDS free generation for us means three things. We need to have zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths.”
Brazil has traditionally been one of the worldwide leaders for HIV testing, and its campaigns are a model for other countries. They conduct HIV and AIDS prevention campaigns during the Carnival holiday, which includes widespread advertising and condom distribution.