In Africa, Soccer Star Helps Break Down AIDS Taboo

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Whenever we hear of devastating news from the continent of Africa, its HIV problems are likely to be leading the headlines.

RELATED: In America, Black AIDS Institute Is Winning The War

But what you may not know about Africa is that the number of people newly infected with HIV in 2009 fell from 2.2 million to 1.8 million, according to recent statistics published by United Nations AIDS. Moreover, the continent has many activists from all walks of life who are helping their countries fight stereotypes and taboos about the disease.

One of the most-prominent activists is soccer star Samual Eto’o (pictured) of Cameroon. He heads the 2012 African World Cup campaign “CAN Without AIDS,” which uses soccer (or football for those outside of the United States) as a platform to raise AIDS and HIV awareness among Africans across the continent. Check out one of his ads below.

Samual Eto’o Campaign Ad

Recently, Eto’o held a press conference in Libreville, capital of Gabon, where he challenged his fellow Africans to take control of themselves so that they and the continent could better take on HIV/AIDS, according to goal.com.

Eto’o called on African youths to shun ‘destructive pleasures of the moment’ and focus on their future, as he did by modelling himself on compatriot Roger Milla during his early days.

We are using football to convey this message because Africans love football and it has become a gathering point. We want to bring this as an alert that HIV-Aids is not only a threat to the sport in Africa but a danger for the youths and development on the continent, Eto’o said.

That soccer is being used to promote this message shouldn’t be surprising. South Africa hosted a very successful 2010 World Cup, which showed the rest of the world that Africa is much more than its HIV and AIDS issues. Moreover, Africa’s GDP is expected to rise some 6 percent in 2012, so governments across the continent realize that they need healthy citizens to take advantage of this economic upsurge.

Another influential African taking the lead on HIV/AIDS is South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who has three wives. After sparking controversy with his suggestion that one can reduce the risk of of HIV/AIDS by showering after sex, he released test results showing he was HIV negative.

Whether Eto’o’s efforts can influence the sexual behavior of  young Africans remains to be seen, but one thing is clear, he is one of many Africans who is making themselves seen and heard in Africa’s HIV/AIDS fight.

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