JOHANNESBURG, 10 June 2010 (PlusNews) - South African AIDS organisations have issued a statement lambasting FIFA, the world soccer body, for ignoring their requests to distribute HIV prevention information in stadiums and fan parks during the Soccer World Cup.
IRIN/PlusNews sat down with Federico Addiechi, head of FIFA's Corporate Social Responsibility Department, to hear his response.
QUESTION: In a country with one of the world's highest HIV prevalence rates, why has FIFA not allowed HIV/AIDS awareness activities in stadiums and fan parks?
ANSWER: There are many institutions and parties involved in the implementation of the World Cup [but] when somebody doesn't get a reply to an email, then it's [the fault of] FIFA. This is something that we are used to, but we have to correct this information.
There has been no decline [refusal] either from FIFA or the [Local] Organising Committee in South Africa for [HIV/AIDS] activities to take place in those areas. Maybe someone is still waiting for an email to be confirmed [as to] where the condom dispensers need to be delivered, and that has been taken as a decline, but that would surprise me.
If such a request were to have come, it would have most certainly ended up in our department, and we would have checked it out. I can only tell you that ... FIFA has not received such a request and, definitely, it has never been declined.
Q: What HIV/AIDS activities has FIFA planned for the World Cup?
A: As part of [the government's current voluntary HIV testing and counselling] campaign, there are initiatives like the distribution of information and condoms at fan parks, fan fests and stadiums.
Government-brand condoms are going to be distributed at the fan fests and at all the 10 stadiums. [City health services] in the nine host cities of the World Cup are responsible for getting in touch with the venue managers for that distribution to happen.
The fan fests have an 'infotainment' programme, which is broadcast before and after the matches on the [viewing] screens. In that programme there are already two video messages related to HIV prevention, and there's even a commercial for condoms.
Q: Is it FIFA's responsibility to provide this kind of HIV/AIDS information?
A: It is not FIFA's responsibility to create a campaign or take responsibility for something that the South African government has already taken responsibility for.
The FIFA World Cup, and the stadiums and the fan parks, are just a minor chance for the distribution of this [HIV/AIDS] information. However ... health authorities are right in approaching the FIFA World Cup organisers to use those channels. If we can help in supporting this campaign, we will, but the responsibility remains with the South African health authorities.
We need to also be aware of the fact that the World Cup is about football ... and that 99 percent of the communication around the FIFA World Cup will be around football.
Q: Did people have unfair expectations of what FIFA's role would be in the fight against HIV?
A: I would not say, 'unfair'. When you work for a UN agency or a non-governmental organisation and you dedicate your life to a certain cause, then of course you think your cause is the most important, and you will do anything to get whoever can have a positive impact on it to help you.
We receive hundreds of requests for different causes, which are all legitimate, and we have the difficult task of having to say, 'No'. The management of expectations is something that we are permanently doing.
Within FIFA I'm pushing for as much space as possible [for social causes], but there are limitations; it's impossible to speak about HIV, and about human rights, and about human trafficking, and violence and gender equity ... because we are the World Cup, and we should be speaking about football.
Q: What will be the legacy, in terms of HIV, of South Africa's World Cup?
A: There is going to be a legacy, medically, as centres of medical excellence in sports medicine and sports-related public health interventions are being opened on the African continent, thanks to our FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC).
From a social development perspective ... the concrete investment from FIFA in this regard was the Football for Hope centres, which were launched in 2007 under the slogan "20 Centres for 2010". HIV is present [as a focus] in most of the organizations and NGOs we are working with, and who are hosting and managing these centres.