The LASS ‘Know Your HIV Status’ football tournament at the Emerald centre in Leicester on 24 July 2011 achieved more than the expected outcomes.
The focus of the tournament was to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, ‘kick out’ stigma and discrimination and rapid HIV testing among African communities. The target audience was the African men. This group was specifically targeted because LASS statistics over the past 2 years have shown them to be reluctant to be involved in HIV and AIDS issues and were not forthcoming when it came to HIV testing.
The idea of hosting a football tournament was a way of bringing many African men together as they are lovers of the game. It proved effective as 12 African male teams participated and 4 other teams were turned down because the desired number for the event had been exceeded. The teams were from Leicester, Coventry, Birmingham, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Luton and Stevenage. Participants were from the following African countries: Gambia, Somalia, Nigeria, Malawi, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.
The LASS rapid HIV testing van was on site. There were 20 ‘I Know My HIV Status’ bronze medals as an incentive for the first 20 African men to test for HIV. The medals proved the ideal catalyst for the men to test for HIV as those tested came out of the van brandishing them and then hung them onto their necks and moved right across all the grounds boasting of knowing their HIV status. Some came out singing in jubilation and displayed dancing skills as they celebrated. They challenged their friends to follow likewise and so not wanting to be left out a queue of men lined near the testing van waiting for their turn.
Twenty nine African men and three African women were tested for HIV. Celia Fisher who was the tester on site and the sexual health coordinator for LASS conceded, ‘This is a record, the largest number of people tested in a single day since the inception of the community rapid HIV testing at LASS in June 2009. Some of those tested left their contact details so they could have certificates of the tests sent to them as proof to their wives, partners, friends and family. Eric Gore, a LASS sexual health African communities outreach worker went around the grounds giving team, group and individual HIV awareness interventions and emphasising and the importance of a HIV test.
The day’s atmosphere was full of scenes of joy from those tested and others watching the games. All three pitches were in use and from the round robin the matches went straight into the semi-finals. Luton and Coventry Warriors battled it out in the final and the latter emerged victors. They scooped the winners’ trophy and 17 gold medals whilst the losing finalists Luton walked away with 17 silver medals. All the three match referees were each awarded a god medal. ‘This was the best of all the tournaments we have officiated at, it was well organised and there was discipline from the word go,’ commented Lazarus the chief referee.
There were lots of BBQ for the participating teams and match officials. Zimbabwe Association volunteers prepared food for the teams. Gochi Gochi Africa was selling BBQ including spare ribs, steak, sausages, roast corn etc and the ‘Chaka laka’ chillies.
Social networking continued late in the evening to as late as 11 pm with members of the public and the teams enjoying cold drinks served by the Emerald centre bar staff.
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