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June 27, 2010

Bwafano, Zambia

By Cynara Vetch

After our very urban game in Lusaka we headed to the outskirts of the city to Bwafano Community School, which educates children ranging from 4-16 years old. The school had set up a football tournament. As the first team set off in their canary yellow football-shirts, a group of peer educators sat with the other squads and discussed HIV issues. One big theme that came up was male circumcision and how it can help reduce HIV, the young men wanted to know why traditional circumcision was being advised against in favour of a medical operations. Paul Kasoukouona, a HIV activist explained that “The traditional method is all centred around the same knife that serves many young initiates and this leads to problems of infection and the spread of HIV and AIDS”. Health workers recommend having the foreskin removed by a doctor in a sanitised environment. We were impressed with the high level of knowledge amongst the young men and their interest HIV prevention. Everywhere we go however it seems that the youth are being targeted as group that needs more education and assistance. I asked Paul why it was that this knowledge is not transferring into behaviour change and why HIV is still being spread amongst young men and women. An issue that assists the spread of the virus amongst young Zambians, is a law that makes it illegal for anyone under 16 to have an HIV test without their parent’s consent. Paul is pushing for this law to be abolished he says that “parents often refuse to allow their children to go for a test, they think that if their sons or daughters are found positive it looks like the parents themselves are promiscuous and will be judged by their community.”

The older generations also speak of un-licensed underage drinking in illegal bars that cater to children. Here you find girls and boys no older than 16 drunk by 8am in the morning. Anyone’s money is welcome in these establishments and the accessible alcohol means that young people get careless and have unsafe sex.

For tonight at least the football teams were much more interested in ‘good, clean fun’ and the Germany vs England match provided more than enough entertainment. The Africa Goal is split between England and German supporters, so some felt robbed by England’s disallowed goal, while those with bright German flags painted across their cheeks left Bwafano in a glow of pride for Deutscheland.

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