According to the 2013 Global AIDS Program (GAP) Report of the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), sub-Saharan Africa alone hosts 24.7 million of the world’s 35 million people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) including 2.1 million new infections, the youth being the most-affected.
As one of the responses to containing the pandemic, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and UNAIDS, in January 2013, launched the “Protect the Goal” campaign— a football–based HIV/AIDS prevention advocacy programme— that aims to help tackle the risk of transmission among young people.
The campaign, launched in collaboration with many of the 22 priority countries, including Ghana, Ethiopia, and South Africa, stresses the need for ensuring all the 15 million people eligible for life-saving antiretroviral treatment to access it by the year 2015.
In Ghana, the “Protect the Goal” Campaign was first launched prior to going global in 2013 through the collaboration of UNAIDS, Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) and the Ghana Football Association (GAF).
The Ghana chapter of the campaign advocates for safe sex through three key messages— Use the condom, Know your HIV status and Reduce sex partners.
The campaign has identified and partnered the youth, and patronized events where the youth are informed about HIV prevention through the campaign’s safe sex messages while the youth, in return, pledge to protect themselves against getting infected with HIV.
Addressing the media on Friday at the eve of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Football Tournament in Equatorial Guinea, UNAIDS Country Director in Ghana, His Excellency Girmay Haile, noted that the use of football in the prevention of HIV was informed by two reasons, namely that sports, especially football, had a large audience and the idea of protecting a team’s goal post from goals by the opponent which translated into the vigilance required in protecting oneself from getting infected.
Mr Haile said the 2015 AFCON games offered another opportunity to embark on a nationwide HIV campaign to maintain the momentum created through sports and also ensure that the general population was constantly reminded to protect itself against HIV infection.
He congratulated the Ghana National Football Team, the Black Stars, for qualifying for the competition and for being a partner in the fight against HIV.
He noted that the campaign was necessary to build momentum, especially as this year was critical in assessing every nation’s progress with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Mr Haile said Ghana’s HIV prevalence, currently, was at 1.3 per cent, representing a reduction from 2.7 in 2005, and that Ghana recorded a 66 per cent reduction in new infections among adults and children, witnessed a reduction of more than 30 per cent of deaths due to AIDS as well as a 60 per cent reduction of HIV infection among new born babies.
With extra hard work, therefore, he said, Ghana could make a difference in its HIV status, adding that the impact of this national achievement would be meaningless if the continent and the world at large did not remain on track to attaining similar milestones.
He said HIV remained an unfinished business and that ridding the world of AIDS by the year 2030 required bold and committed leaders, building effective partnerships, especially the private sector, involving people in finding solutions, identifying areas in the cities with the highest concentration of HIV cases and working through key personalities including football celebrities, goodwill ambassadors and other vulnerable groups.
Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)