On Tuesday July 3rd, we set up an Africa Goal event in downtown Kitale in an informal settlement area called Bondeni. A well chosen venue by our partners, PS Kenya and the County AIDS and STI Coordinator, set the stage for a great event; right at the entrance of a slum area, we were able to attract people most at risk of HIV in that area.
Poor living conditions, weak sanitation infrastructure and the ease with which infectious diseases are transmitted in high density informal settlements like Bondeni increase vulnerability to ill health. High HIV prevalence as well as high rates of violence and abuse further increase vulnerability, making this an ideal location for an Africa Goal event. Sport in general and the World Cup football in particular creates a non-threatening platform to bring people together for open, accessible and frank discussion around sensitive issues. The partners identified very charismatic youth group representatives who initiated lively and engaging HIV discussions and quizzes – keeping the crowd entertained before the match, during half time, before extra time and penalties. A total of 69 people went for HIV counseling and testing during the evening of which 3 tested positive for HIV. For this last group, a follow up program was initiated by a visit to the local health center the next day. The counsellors were pleased with the high turn out for HIV testing as there remains a lot of HIV stigma and discrimination in the area.
The crowd also enjoyed a dance-off by the youngest among the spectators which really brought a lively vibe to the event – the best dancers won footballs! All of them received Africa Goal information booklets, posters and stickers. It is the combination of sports and the provision of health services and information that sets the stage for changing attitudes towards HIV, and that is the backbone to and the success of Africa Goal – this event was a great example of that.