HIV Counselling and Testing Tournament

‘Youth Day’ is a hugely celebrated day in South Africa and being an organisation that has it’s primary goal as ‘development of youth’, United Through Sport SA held a HIV Counselling and Testing 5-a-side Tournament at a small town just outside of Port Elizabeth. The point of this tournament was to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to encourage HIV counselling and testing.

The 95 children playing on the day comprised of 7 local soccer teams and one local netball team; which were all under the age of 16, with the senior teams being the South African Police Services (SAPS) playing against the local team, Addo Legends. Also taking part in the tournament were our School of Excellence soccer boys and netball girls. The local police and health department were very involved on the day, making it the success it was.

Opening the day before the games was a performance from local traditional dancers which had the crowd amazed as the little boys and girls showed off their talents to the beats of the drum. When that was done, the first round of soccer started.

The community was really giving their support, with the old and the young cheering on. Being spectators was not the only way they were getting involved though; the queues for the HIV testing were getting longer by the minute. The added benefit with the mobile clinic at the field was the nurses were also screening for TB, blood sugar, haemoglobin and blood pressure, as well as HIV testing. Some of the children were busy with our life skills team doing activities from our curriculum, which promotes abstinence and educates about this deadly disease. Condoms were also made available to everyone, encouraging safe sex to the youth.

Our School of Excellence netball team won the junior tournament beating their Addo opponents convincingly. The police team was starting to warm up now, knowing the masters game was coming up after the semi-finals of the junior team. With the HIV counselling and testing still carrying on in the mobile clinics, the day was getting even more exciting and the pressure on the local teams was building up. The SAPS team proved to everyone watching that, once you join the force, you go through a lot of fitness training and used this to press home their advantage and win the master’s game.

The United Through Sport SA boys faced the Buffalos in the final round but could just not play down their talent! They were the winners of the tournament, with a 2-1 victory.

The post-match presentation had prizes for the following individuals: top goal scorer, goal keeper of the tournament, player’s player, player of the tournament and coach of the tournament. The senior team got a floating trophy and bragging rights!

With a total of 74 youth between 13 and 18 years old testing on the day, and 45 between 19 and 35 years old, the day was a success for our first HCT Tournament in Addo. The community of Addo was a pleasure to work with. The event would not have been the success it was, if we did not have support from the Cacadu Health Department, Olive Leaf, the SAPS, the Sundays River Citrus Company (oranges were the order of the day!) and Zola, who co-ordinated all the Addo logistics for us. We look forward to doing some more work with this community, as their appreciation was very encouraging.

Of the 74 children, none were HIV positive and of the older youth, 24% tested HIV positive. This just proved how programmes such as ours are needed to keep the young generation in the HIV-free zone. The community of Addo pleaded us to come back and get their kids more involved in sport. “We are happy when our kids are having fun and learning at the same time, as AIDS is a big problem” commented one of the parents.

Swaziland Welcomes United Through Sport

Last month our Director, Sam Eve, headed south to see how rugby is making a big impact on the lives of young people in Swaziland as they struggle to come to terms with a worrying HIV/AIDS epidemic that now infects more than 1 in 3 of the country’s population. Read Sam’s Report below:

One thing that struck me about Swaziland was just how lush, green and beautiful the country was. The people also seemed so much happier and less stressed in contrast to those living in the dirty and overcrowded townships of Port Elizabeth from where I’d just come.

However behind the beauty and the smiles hides a much sadder truth. The truth that 1 in 3 of the population are dying of AIDS. Swaziland has now surpassessed Botswana as the country with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. A staggering 39% of the population are infected with the disease and many don’t even know they are infected. Those that do know often cannot afford the treatment or know where to get it from. Those that don’t know continue to infect others. Cultural ‘norms’ in the country further accentuate the problem. Each year the King of Swaziland takes a new wife. Some men with HIV/AIDS still believe that sleeping with a virgin will cure them. Incest and domestic violence are common place. As a result, women are very much seen as second rate citizens and so the cycle of poverty continues. For young Swazi’s growing up under this black cloud, the future is bleak.

That is why United Through Sport are working with a local grassroots partner called SKRUM who are using rugby to tackle the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic and promote greater gender equality to young people throughout Swaziland.

SKRUM works by training up to 2 teachers in every primary and secondary school to become rugby coaches. These teachers are given all the coaching resources they need such as training manuals, balls and pumps to help them establish the sport within the school. The teachers are then given information provided by NERCHA (the National Emergency Response Council for HIV/AIDS) and SWAGGA (a charity dedicated to tackling domestic violence against women and children) and guidance from SKRUM on how to deliver this information to their students informally through the game of rugby and off the pitch. Rugby simply provides the vehicle in which to deliver this information as well as an opportunity to develop important life skills in the children such as teamwork, sportsmanship, fitness and self-esteem. The physicality of the game also works in challenging the tradional role of women in Swazi society and works towards breaking down the stereotypes that currently exist.

In my visit to Swaziland I was hugely impressed by the dedication of the SKRUM team and how quickly they have moved the project forward in only a few months. Whilst only in their first year, SKRUM has received interest from over 90 schools keen to adopt the programme. Sport is a major motivator for children to attend school and as such Head Teachers are keen to add rugby to the curriculum.

As more and more schools come on board, it will be possible to develop a schools rugby league bringing the community closer together and re-enforcing the positive values of SKRUM.