HIV Football Tournament

Reading this week:

  • Left Bank by Agnès Poirier

This past weekend I helped out at another volunteer’s HIV Football Tournament. This program was put on by Mel, and I attended to pick up any lessons I could about maybe running a similar event in my village. Overall it was a lot of fun and a lot of people got tested for HIV and learned about HIV prevention.

The event I attended was actually the culminating day of a series of football matches. It was the final match between the last two teams in the tournament. There were a total of six teams at the beginning of the tournament. Part of Mel’s rules to be able to play in the tournament is that you had to get tested for HIV. Although she plans to host a net ball tournament next year, she was focusing on men as her target demographic and football is a great way to get men interested in HIV. Throughout the course of the tournament, she also arranged to have testing available at the games, so she wound up getting 105 people tested, which is a pretty awesome accomplishment!

The arts group struts their stuff.

As the day of the finals dawned, we were a little worried because we found out morning of that the Chief’s daughter was getting married that same day. We were pretty worried that the wedding would depress turnout at the event, and towards the beginning of the event our fear seemed justified because the crowd was pretty small. Luckily though, Mel had arranged to have an arts group from Kasama come to perform at the event. Their main role was to put on a skit about HIV stigma and prevention, but they also did several dance performances. This was very useful for literally drumming up a crowd. As the arts group started to perform, people began to filter into the event from the surrounding areas and the local market, so before long there was a pretty large crowd.

Mel teaching about HIV & gender.

After the first dance we broke into two groups to teach about HIV. Putra and Thomas, the other two volunteers that came to help, took the younger part of the crowd and taught a GRS lesson about how ARVs work to protect the body from HIV. Mel and I took the older part of the crowd and talked about HIV and gender. The physical differences between men and women, along with the different cultural expectations between men and women affect their likelihood of getting the virus. Those topics aren’t really any different here in Zambia than the are back in the USA. One of the major points I talked about during the discussion is the fact that women with a lot of sexual partners are seen as promiscuous, while men with a lot of sexual partners are seen as manly. That means men can be a vector for HIV, as they spread it among their multiple partners. We try to emphasize that the best thing to do, if you choose to be sexually active, is to have one mutually faithful partner and to both get tested for STIs regularly.

After the lessons there was more dancing, and then lunch, and then we convened for the big event. Watching the football match was a lot of fun. There must have been hundreds of people watching. Not only was the football match probably the most interesting thing going on during a Saturday afternoon, but the stakes were pretty high because as part of the tournament Mel was offering prize money. The crowd was really into it. It was a little sad for us, because the team we were rooting for (the team one of Mel’s friends was playing on) lost 0-3, but the crowd brought a lot of energy. Whenever the other team scored the whole crowd would rush onto the field and run around before clearing out in about a minute to let the game continue. When the game was finally over the whole crowd paraded the winning team around the field and then back to Mel so she could award the prizes and thank everyone for coming.

After the game we filtered back to Mel’s place and cooked dinner. I had a really great time at the game and I think it was pretty awesome l how many people Mel got tested and taught about HIV. People had a lot of fun and I was glad to be part of it!