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How Many Soccer Fans Does It Take To Wear A Condom?
Thursday, June 17, 2010

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Ghana versus Serbia match held in Pretoria.  For the record, the score was Ghana one, Serbia nil.  However, this blog is not about soccer, but rather about promises made by organisers of the World Cup to benefit the population of the country where tournament is being held.  There is been a lot of controversy about alleged promises that FIFA made regarding the fight against HIV.  Many of the civil society organisations in South Africa have protested against the international organisation’s apparent lack of interest in the epidemic.  FIFA responded, saying that they have done everything they have promised, given their mandate.

One of the most obvious ways of stemming the spread of HIV is to distribute condoms freely, frequently, and in places where they are easily accessible.  It is a practice that is followed in businesses, conference centres, property management companies, municipalities, entertainment complexes, restaurants etc.  FIFA said that “government-brand condoms are going to be distributed at the fan fests and at all the 10 stadiums.” At the Ghana/Serbia match,  I was pleased to see the box of condoms was openly on display in the public bathrooms.  I was also pleased to see, at half-time, that the box was empty.  Of course there is no way of knowing that the condoms were properly used, but at least they were distributed.  It was only a few days later, that I saw things from a different perspective.

The stadium has a seating capacity of about 45,000 people, and the stadium was 80% full.  I was sitting in the cheap seats, specifically reserved for South Africans.  It meant that I was probably in one of the larger blocks of seats.  I was in row V, and each row had at least 25 seats.  I assume that the rows continued to about row Z.  So the block of seats where I was located had at least 26 rows, multiplied by 25 seats, or a total of 650 seats.  In the area where I was located there were at least three blocks or approximately 1950 seats.  Let us assume that this area was also 80% full, so contained at least 1560 people.  Let us be gender sensitive and assume that half of them were women.  That means that there are at least 780 men in attendance.  There were also some children, so let us round that figure down to 700 potentially sexually active men in the area where I was seated.

How many condoms did the organisers see fit to make available to this block of people who were sharing the public bathroom?

A single box of 100 condoms.

So, 700 potential recipients and 100 condoms.

Now I know what the criticisms are.  Not every man out of the 700 would have taken a condom.  I didn’t.  So we have to make a further assumption, maybe only half or a third of the men would have reached into the box.  Best case scenario?  Two hundred and thirty individuals trying to access 100 condoms. 

The point of this whole exercise?

Was the notional action of distributing condoms better than nothing?  Definitely!  But if you are going to be serious about to stand against the epidemic that is ravaging the continent, and make all the right noises about making the right decisions and "doing your best", then at least get serious about one of the simplest methods you can employ in fighting the disease.  The condoms are freely available, distribution containers are available at nominal cost, and they stand up to wear and tear a lot better than a cardboard box.

Or perhaps, as in most things, it is easier just to talk the talk rather than walk the walk.