AIDS groups protest FIFA ban policy

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — AIDS awareness groups said Saturday they are protesting a ban by the world soccer body FIFA on distributing health related information and condoms at World Cup stadiums and fan events in South Africa.

An alliance of 10 leading South African HIV/AIDS organizations said FIFA has not permitted civic groups to set up booths and small “wellness centers” at FIFA controlled venues, while commercial sponsors are allowed to sell alcohol.

Mark Heywood, a spokesman for the alliance, said the tournament was an unprecedented chance to bring awareness to millions during festivities likely to make fans “behave in a way that will place them at greater risk of infection.”

But FIFA said in a statement Saturday that it launched its own HIV campaign with host city authorities by encouraging them to install “fan service areas” in the cities during the June 11 to July 11 World Cup where basic medicines, sunscreen and condoms could be distributed free. City medical departments and ambulance services were also expected to make available HIV information leaflets and condoms.

The soccer body said HIV prevention messages and advertisements for condoms will be shown on giant screens at venues. AIDS and health awareness training were also included in FIFA’s “Football for Hope” program alongside the setting up of youth soccer centers in impoverished townships across South Africa.

Heywood, who is also vice chairman of the South African National AIDS Council chaired by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, said civic groups were still not allowed to operate inside FIFA designated areas — known as controlled access sites — in and around World Cup venues to reach the core of fans and supporters.

He said FIFA’s support program missed the crucial target of the bulk of fans and revelers inside its venues.

“It is disgraceful conduct. We are being denied a massive opportunity,” he told The Associated Press.

via The Associated Press: AIDS groups protest FIFA ban policy.