Football spreads AIDS

durex_england.jpgThough I like to rant that HIV is all about sex and drugs (as for example, in this profile in the Guardian), I’ve got a new thing to think about: football.

One of the coolest things about publishing a book, it turns out, is that people start doing your thinking for you. Last week, I had an e-mail from Elbereth Wentzel, a South African living in the UK who picked up The Wisdom of Whores in Edinburgh airport. She wrote to ask: what is the UK doing about HIV prevention for the Soccer World Cup, which will be held in South Africa in two years time?

Bloody good question. We know footballers like to behave badly. We certainly know England fans like to get drunk, and some of them certainly also like to get laid. And we know that women in South Africa (especially those most likely to accomodate a drunken England fan) are among the most likely in the world to be infected with HIV. I know that condom makers Durex made a special “England supporter” limited edition condom for the last World Cup. But we should be thinking of working at the club level to make people aware of the need to protect themselves if they are going to play ball while at the World Cup.

I mentioned this yesterday to a colleague at Britain’s National AIDS Trust. They’re already thinking about the 2012 Olympics, which will be in London, but the World Cup isn’t on their radar screen, any more than it was on mine. So if there’s nothing going on out there in fanland, maybe it’s time to start. Any ideas?

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This post was published on 13/05/08 in Good sex and bad.

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  1. Comment by Clare, 13/05/08, 02:25:

    The point of football is to get goals. Goals are something all the fans want. If we can get everyone to think of having (scoring) at least one goal… and then think about the affect that HIV and AIDS would have on it. All very clumsy as expressed by me but some genius marketing brain could do something with this?

  2. Comment by mark, 13/05/08, 03:06:

    Free condoms to every travel agency booking special tickets/fares packages to the Cup. (Only works if they then send them on to the punter with the other paperwork about the trip)

    Free condoms and lecture material to all of the FA supporters’ clubs organizing tours. Make sure the lecture is given by good-looking women.

    Compulsory viewing of a short informational film on every flight arriving in South Africa. Condoms in every seat-back pocket (with the headphones?) Airline attendants hand out condoms and leaflets as supporters leave the plane in SA.

    A large poster at every airline gate saying: “Have unprotected sex with an African = Get AIDS”

    Agreed, this last *might* be a little controversial…

  3. Comment by steven, 13/05/08, 05:43:

    Most England football fans are racist. It’ll be the Russians and Thais who’ll get their custom.
    A friend of mine staying in Macao says there are quite a few Russian/East European whores working there. They’ll fly in (be flown in)to SA for the football. They might even get in to China for the Olympics .. not as competitors ..

  4. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 13/05/08, 05:52:

    “Free condoms to every travel agency booking special tickets/fares packages to the Cup. (Only works if they then send them on to the punter with the other paperwork about the trip)”

    and for goodness sake DON’T staple them to the other paperwork!

  5. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 13/05/08, 08:54:

    Near the end the rant in your Guardian profile linked to above, you say “I don’t think it’s evil to have anal sex with 16 people in a weekend without condoms. I just think if you do that there’s a high likelihood you’re going to get infected. That’s all. It’s cause and effect.”

    That puts me in mind (as things too often do) of the Author’s Note by Philip K. Dick at the end of _A Scanner Darkly_. The most relevant excerpts follow.

    ===begin quotation (copyright by Philip K. Dick, 1977)===
    This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed–run over, maimed, destroyed–but they continued to play anyhow. We really all were very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terribly brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could see it, we could not believe it.

    Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is “Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying,” but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of the ordinary human existence. It is not different from your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place in days or weeks or months instead of years. “Take the cash and let the credit go,” as Villon said in 1460. But that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit a whole lifetime.

    There is no moral in this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were. In Greek drama they were beginning, as a society, to discover science, which means causal law. Here in this novel there is Nemesis: not fate, because any one of us could have chosen to stop playing in the street, but, as I narrate from the deepest part of my life and heart, a dreadful Nemesis for those who kept on playing.

    If there was any “sin,” it was that these people wanted to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science, as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect.

    These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The “enemy” was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.
    ===end quotation===

    Sort of like Ashberry’s elegy, maybe.

  6. Comment by Omid Zamani, 14/05/08, 07:38:

    I liked the practical remarks by Marc, however the last one is not good cuz there are many non-african sex workers there during World Cup season as Steven pointed out.
    I would like to add liaison with SA NGOs for mobilizing their outreach teams to cover clubs, hotels, restaurants, terminals, brothels, beach and every other place for raising awareness and distributing condoms.
    Soccer players should be also targeted, some of them should be trained as peer educators.
    Mass Media campaigns should also concert with these field activities.
    BTW I read your interview with The Guardian. You are right; there should be some greater emphasis on effective prevention, which is missing in global talks. US is investing in its own pharmaceutical industry by distributing ARVs in Africa.

  7. Comment by Chris Burman, 16/05/08, 11:51:

    I think that this will be a really difficult one for South Africa. The idea is that 2010 is going to be a wonderful ‘marketing’ opportunity for the country but we all know that S Africa is a ‘mixed bag’. I actually sit on a provincial 2010 committee and I assue you that the idea of giving a free condom to all visiters would not be welcomed. However, if anyone has ideas – however – whacky they might be kep sending them in!

  8. Comment by Elbereth, 18/05/08, 12:01:

    The ideas provided to protect European men from contracting HIV when visiting SA sounds good – but could we not also focus on using the World Cup as an opportunity to do more about HIV in South Africa? Much as I love my home country, we have a awful record when it comes to addressing HIV. Might this not be an opportunity to put some international pressure on President Mbeki to do more? And to find innovative ideas to increase prevention in SA in the long term?

  9. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 19/05/08, 02:04:

    “Might this not be an opportunity to put some international pressure on President Mbeki to do more?”

    It’s not immediately obvious to me how to use the World Cup to achieve that end (short of threatening to cancel it if he doesn’t abandon his garlic fantasies); could you maybe start our communal creative juices flowing (as it were) with a few rough ideas to be fleshed out?

    As to “could we not also focus on using the World Cup as an opportunity to do more about HIV in South Africa?”, would it be possible (and, if possible, would it be effective?) to use the reputation of football players (at least, British ones, from what I read in the Guardian) as being indiscriminately randy?

    Maybe something like this: photos of smiling footballers from around the globe, captioned “We screw our brains out with every bird we meet, but we don’t have as much HIV as you! The difference? Condoms. Use one today. No, use THREE today.”

  10. Comment by Katherine Sladden, 20/05/08, 10:10:

    I don’t normally refer people to The Sun but the paper has already done an interesting article on this issue:

    Aids girls on World Cup game

    Definately something to think about, and an awareness campaign in The Sun might not be a bad way of reaching UK football fans.

  11. Comment by Ricky Chhakchhuak, 27/04/10, 09:40:

    If we could ‘stop the bugs’ we need not to fear nomore. This will only happened when a person understand life better and start thinking twice before he/she does anything. If the sex workers, prostitutes/call girl or anybody from that community can assure safer sexual practice in their profession, we will sure avoid atleast 50% of new infection. (I guess South Africa already had a good module in place for sex workers community). The remaining 50% is the responsibilities of the others-customers, the sexual partners, football players or lovers, travelers etc. A simple way of alarming and short information in a form of broucher or pamphlet, posters etc about the prevalence of HIV in the country, the chances of getting infected if indulge in sexual (risky) behavior, its consequences, or maybe a reward to customer if sex worker doesent use condoms during their profession(just a suggestion and of course i don’t know the existing laws)that will capture attention. If we are able to do these way, everybody have a role to play in prevention of HIV and other BBV’s for the betterment of individual, family, community and society.

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