HIV Testing Soccer Tournament

A few months ago I was sitting outside on my homestead, next to me was my Swazi mother (make). She was cooking some pap and chicken on the fire for dinner that evening. We were discussing her immediate family and how more than a quarter of the people on the very homestead, where I stay now, have passed away. The majority have been men and had passed away from AIDS. 
My mother in Swaziland, “Make” pronounced (MA-GAY)

 This conversation about her family members led my make to express, in her experience, how males in Swaziland are very resistant to outside help. She explained to me that rarely, if ever, males will go to a hospital or a clinic. The males try to treat the illness or injury at home first. To treat an illness or disease in rural Swaziland some families will visit the local traditional healer. At the traditional healer they receive traditional medicine or sometimes even use black magic to cure an illness. Mostly women go to the clinic if these locally sourced medicines don’t work, while the males will not seek out further treatment. 

 I’ve been told one of the main reasons men choose to not go to the clinics is because this is not seen as being a very masculine act. Traditionally, Men in Swaziland (& in many other countries) are seen as the “bread winners” or providers and take pride in being seen as emotionally & physically strong at all times. Part of these men wanting to be seen as strong, is that they will rarely ask for outside help especially when they have an illness. The males will hide themselves and sometimes progress in that illness without many people knowing. My Swazi make explains, that Swazi males going to the clinic for a check-up or treatment is seen as a weakness, an un-masculine act, by their families & society. This can also explain why there are very low HIV testing rates for males in Swaziland.

 My Swazi make has seen this barrier to health care for men in a very personal way; she lost her husband to AIDS in 2007. She stated that her husband refused to go to the clinic and that he tried to use traditional medicine to “cure” himself of what she thought to be HIV. My make knows now that there is no “cure” for HIV. 

 After being tested a positive for HIV a patient will receive anti-viral medication that works as a wonder drug to fight the virus. Taking anti-viral’s properly & consistently put’s HIV at undetectable levels in a patient. To be able to get this wonder drug one must go to the hospital or mobile clinic to first get tested, then they receive a prescription of anti-viral medication each month. Therein lies the problem, if men never go to the clinic, there is a good chance that they would never get tested & treated. Testing positive for HIV = anti-viral’s which is needed to live a long healthy life with HIV.

 Sometimes seen as a worse consequence of these men not getting tested, when positive, is the problem of spread HIV to their partners or whomever they are sleeping with. Men that don’t know their status and have HIV virus are at risk to pass it onto their partners without even knowing they are doing so. WhatsWhat’s the difference between HIV & AIDS? -Simply put a person who is HIV+ has the virus, and AIDS is when a person gets so sick that you could die from the virus . virus. From the time HIV is contracted to when it becomes AIDS is about a 10 year cycle, on average. This 10 year window is a large amount of time for males or females to pass on HIV to whom everwhomever they are having sex with. This is a sad reality in Swaziland and across the world that men’s ego gets in the way of them living a healthy life and in the long-term having a HIV free generation. —Okay, enough with the rant, but the this was the inspiration for my first project that has been completed from start to finish in Peace Corps. 

 Inspired by the discussion I had with my make, I talked with a leader in my community about bringing HIV testing to males in Velezizweni. We came up with the idea of trying to attract specifically the men to get tested with soccer! In many Aafrican countries, or world wide, football or soccer in aamerican terms is the most popular sport. In my large rural community alone we have over 12 local teams that play semi-regularly for fun. Community leadership and I came up with the idea of having a soccer tournament between four teams on Saturday’s with the focus of the event being on HIV testing. We would reciprocate this event three different Saturdays, three different locations and four new teams each weekend. The location would change, making the testing more assessableaccessible to my community at large. The men would be playing for the first prize of a goat (donated by the community leadership) & a second place prize of a brand new soccer ball. 

 I wanted this event to be easily reciprocated, so that my community was able to do this again when I am not present aka; a sustainable project! For this reason we decide to not do a grant and use all resources already found here in Swaziland. All three events were on three separate Saturdays in June. An organization called PSI (population services international) helped out immensely with this event. They provided free HIV testing, counselling, DJ & gave away over 10,000 condoms. I got the diabetes association of Swaziland abroad as well to do diabetes testing for adults and children. Many frustrations were involvked in the process of creating, maintaining, and follow-thru with the events. I tried to keep things in perspective and telling myself “all that matters is that people (especially males) get tested”. Keeping that in my mind, most of the problems I were took with a grain of salt and overall the project was a success!

  

*112 People tested for HIV in Velezizweni*

92 Males, 20 Females

8 People were Positive for HIV

82% of the people who were tested were Male

Males 10-17 = 12 Males (11% of the people who tested)

Males 17-25 = 50 Males (45% of the people who tested)

Males 25+ = 30 males (27% of the people who tested)

Females consisted of 17% of the people who tested
I couldn’t choose one, so here are my conclusions of the HIV testing events:

A Goat can encourages youth males to “Know their status”

“Bahhh know your status bro”

-Goat

My counterparts & I at the first event.

Diabetes testing!

Counterpart speaking to the crowd about the importance of HIV testing

Playing some musical chairs on the sidelines!

Group of people watching a condom demonstration

The famous prizes;

Coach of a winning team!

Final game ended in a kickoff!

3 thoughts on “HIV Testing Soccer Tournament

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