With the collage of sponsors and celebrities at the World Aids Day in Lagos, Roland Ogbonnaya writes that the novelty match organised by Friends Africa amongst other things helped drum the theme of this year's event 'Getting to Zero'
Penultimate week, World AIDS Day was celebrated across the globe. As an international health day, many organisations all over the world marked the occasion, mainly to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV.
In Nigeria, while National Action was delivering speeches in Abuja for the Control of Aids (NACA) and other agencies, here in Lagos, the day was marked differently and in style. Friends of the Global Fund Africa to Fight Aids Tuberculosis and Malaria (Friends Africa) explored the power of sports and indeed football as a unifying factor in Nigeria to positively draw attention to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, by organising a novelty match between a team of former Super Eagles players against a team of celebrities.
The novelty match was played between a team of ex-football stars (Team Eagles) and a team of celebrities in the music and movie industry in Nigeria (Team Entertainers). Members of Team Eagles were: Jay Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, Celestine Babayaro, Emmanuel Babyaro, Mutiu Adepoju, Emmanuel Amunike, Mobi Oparaku, Emeka Ezeugo, Ben Akwuegbu, Abdul Isah, Tijjani Babangida, Taribo West, Teslim Fatusi, and Taiwo Enegwa.
The Entertainers Team that squared up with ex-Eagles include M.I, 9ice, Segun Arinze, Gordons, Faze, Ice Prince, Yemi Blaq, Dr. Sid, Yul Edochie , John Njama, Femi Brainard , Nonso Diobu, Uti Nwachukwu , Olamide, Sound Sultan, John Dumelo, Klint da Drunk, Afeez Ayetoro (Saka), Chinedu Ikedieze (AKI), Osita Iheme (Pawpaw), Wande Coal, Sexy Steel, ID Cabasa , Eboh Bomb, and Magnito.
The supporters were made up of People living with HIV and special guests. In attendance was former Nigeria Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who shook hands with all the players just before the kick-off. Team Eagles won Team Entertainers 8 goals to 3 with JayJay Okocha netting a hat trick. Other guests present at the event include, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, CEO/GMD Access Bank Plc who was represented by Mr. Victor Etuokwu, Mr. Emeka Mba, Community Affairs Manager, Coca-Cola.
At the end of the Novelty Match a total attendance of 2000 participants was recorded at the venue of the match, which included 80 persons living with HIV. Access Bank, Coca-Cola, First Bank, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, SO & U Saatchi & Saatchi, Nigeria Football Federation, Brilla FM and Nigeria Info FM and other corporate organisations, supported the novelty match.
While stressing on the support given to the event by Coca-Cola, Mr Emeka Mba, Community Affairs Manager, said, "we have been at the forefront of this fight, and have even participated in some of their other events like capacity building; but importantly, our participation here is a further indication of our belief in not only fighting the pandemic, but also ensuring that those who are infected are not stigmatised.
According to Dr Akudo Anyanwu-Ikemba, founder and CEO of Friends Africa the aim of this initiative was to tap into the natural convening power of Football to create a viable platform for the delivery of health advocacy campaigns and amplifying the voice for this year's global AIDS Day theme: 'Getting to Zero'. Meaning - Zero Stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS, Zero Infections! Zero Discrimination! Zero Transmission; through educating and empowering youths with information to help prevent the spread of this deadly disease.
For Gowon, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of Friends Africa and special guest of honour at the novelty match, "it's important for all of us to lend our voices against this pandemic; no doubt we are having good results as a result of this awareness creation. Based on statistics released by NACA, though, the overall rates of HIV/AIDS infection have fallen slightly, from 4.6 per cent to 4.1 percent between 2008 and 2010. Moreover, over the past decade, the prevalence of HIV in Nigeria has declined by 25 per cent; but we still need to do more".
Vero (not real name), a HIV patient, and one of the spectators at the novelty match, was excited and paid tribute to the great effort put in by Friends Africa and other sponsors in organising this event; she emphasised that this year's theme couldn't have come at a better time, especially with emphasis on Zero infection.
Access Bank on their part has been part of Friends Africa since inception following the board inauguration of the NGO in Kigali, Rwanda in 2006, with their MD/CEO as the Chair of the board Friends of The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This Pan-African mandate is actualised through the organisation's Pan-African Board of Directors, which includes but not limited to Nigeria's former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Madam Kagame, wife of the Rwandan President, Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N'dour.
Friends Africa is a Pan-African organisation founded by Dr Akudo Anyanwu-Ikemba, which works to mobilise strategic political and financial support for the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria through education, multisectoral advocacy and documentation. It is hoped that with the effort put in by Friends Africa in organising this year's World Aids Day awareness, that going forward, it will help in stemming the stigmatisation, which infected person have come to experience.