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KENYA: Targeting men for HIV testing at World Cup games

NAIROBI, 1 July 2010 (IRIN) - James*, a 23-year-old football enthusiast in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, has been playing a dangerous game during this year's FIFA World Cup; some nights at his local pub, he finds a girl cheering for a rival football team and makes a bet with her - if her team loses, she has sex with him.

"At the final whistle, whatever the result and many drinks later, you leave with her," the accountant and graduate student told IRIN/PlusNews. "What shocks me is that of all the girls I approached, none turned me down."

In all, James slept with four women - without protection - before he noticed an advert on TV during one of the match breaks, encouraging viewers to "control game yako poa", or "control your game well", a euphemism for safe sex, and to get tested for HIV.

The TV slots are part of a rapid results HIV testing initiative by the National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme (NASCOP) known as "Jitambue Leo" or "Discover Yourself Today", which aims to test 33,000 men each day for the 33 days of the World Cup.

The message jolted James into visiting a voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centre operating on the sidelines of a World Cup fan park at the Kenya International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi. During counselling he was told he would have to return for further testing in three months, and counselled on the dangers of his lifestyle.

Shaken by the experience, James now says he will stop his "dangerous partying and carefree sex".

Reaching men

According to Nicholas Muraguri, head of NASCOP, the amount of alcohol consumed in bars during the World Cup makes this period particularly dangerous. "The likelihood of casual sex is high and with it the risk of contracting HIV," he said.

Jitambue Leo is specifically targeting men, hoping that 80 percent of its 1,089,000 target will be male. It is taking mobile VCT services to entertainment venues - bars, clubs and halls where matches are screened, as well as going door-to-door, to male-dominated workplaces and encouraging men to visit health facilities where VCT is available.

Muraguri noted that men were generally more reluctant to test for HIV, so the World Cup campaign offered an opportunity to test them in their own spaces.

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At the KICC fan park on the 28th of June, as the Netherlands and Slovakia prepared to battle it out for a place in the last eight, Vincent Mandere, 25, waited nervously for his turn to take the HIV test.

"I came here last week to watch football and on each occasion, someone from Liverpool [Liverpool VCT care and treatment (LVCT), a local NGO] gave a talk on HIV and handed out [Jitambue Leo] fliers before the match and at half-time," he said. "In January, I tested negative but was advised to test again after three months. I never did but having listened to the HIV talks, I made up my mind to come for the long-overdue test."

Options

Amid the din of vuvuzelas and chanting fans, Mandere listened carefully as LVCT counsellor Sophia Wango took him through testing and counselling formalities, such as what his options were if he tested positive and how to ensure he remained HIV-free if he tested negative, and answering any questions.

The package also offers referrals to care and support for people testing positive, advice on disclosure, condom demonstration and informs on the benefits of voluntary medical male circumcision.

Wider campaign

Jitambue Leo fits into Kenya's wider national testing campaign, which aims to test 80 percent of eligible Kenyans by the end of 2010; the campaign has largely focused on door-to-door testing.

"Kenya still has a long way to go [in achieving universal access to counselling and testing]; two-thirds of adults aged 15-64 years have still not been tested for HIV," said Muraguri. "Persons unaware of their status are more likely to spread HIV, so the more people know their status the better."

* Not his real name

wm/kr/mw

Theme (s): Arts/Culture - PlusNews, Education, Gender Issues, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Media - PlusNews, Prevention - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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