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July 6, 2010

Maputo Screening

The Waving Flag song, which has become synonymous with the Word Cup is blared out of speakers at the administration offices of the Zimpeto Barrio on the outskirts of Mozambique’s capital Maputo. A crowd of young students just returning from school quickly gathered and circled round a big screen, while we projected a video and later screened the Netherlands vs Uruguay Semi-final.

The HIV/AIDS community in Mozambique is working hard to educate people about the dangers of Multiple Concurrent Partners (MCPs) but there is need for a ‘mainstreaming’ of the issue. There is still a conservative attitude with regards to discussing subjects such as sexual behaviour and some HIV activists have been using the World Cup as a way to draw people to discuss the issue.

David Magaia is a Research Manager with Nweti Trust, Nweti is an organisation which focuses on health and development communication. He says that about 70% of people in Mozambique are involved in MCPs and that this a key driver for the 16.1% HIV prevalence in the country.

Working with the One Love Campaign Nweti Trust is trying to address this trend but it is not a simple task. David says “soccer is one of the events that brings people together different races, colours and creeds. Many people are so much involved in this that we can really spread the information about HIV. I think it is a wonderful thing and it works because we need to have a main streaming of HIV and AIDS in everything that we do.”

Football is avidly followed in Mozambique as it is in most of Southern Africa and the local administration in the Maputo District and Nweti Trust linked up to work with the Africa Goal project which has been screening the World Cup matches through East and Southern Africa and linking with local partners who are working in HIV/AIDS education and advocacy.

Fernando Chilwane the Secretario of the Zimpeto Barrio on the outskirts of Maputo where the screening was held. Fernando was a keen footballer in his youth but now has the physique of a successful politician and only plays for 10-15 minutes every now and then to remember the old buzz. He is concerned about HIV prevalence in the Maputo district, which has one of the highest rates in the country. He believes that events like this are key to support HIV activists because there is a lack of information amongst his constituents “Children don’t learn about health issues in schools and families never talk about it, people are embarrassed to talk about sex, we need more work on this and have more events such as these.”

Young Mozambiqans may be coy talking about sex with their parents but they are stylish and sassy and were more than happy to voice their opinions about MCPs at the screenings discussions.

One boy was inspired to recite some spoken word poetry, he strode out into the centre of the circle, his beanie pulled low and the microphone in his hand. David translated the Portugese “The poem was about the African cries, people crying because of what HIV is doing in Africa. He mentioned the behaviour of many young people he spoke about inter generational sex…. all these things bring about the spread of HIV which is killing so many people. Even though he ended up by bringing the aspect of hope we hold our hands together still we can have a better future.”

The Africa Goal project continues onto Swaziland now but the local government and CBOs in the area will now be looking for similar initiatives which David belives will “boost the efforts that are being done to reduce the spread of HIV and…motivate us further.”

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