For health workers, South Africa's World Cup isn't just about football. "We know when people are partying, sex happens," said Miriam Mhazo, whose independent Society for Family Health provides Aids virus testing and counseling across South Africa.
Football-mad South Africans are celebrating the debut of the world's most popular sports event on their continent. Aids experts like Mhazo say it's also a time for serious action and discussion.
South Africa has an estimated 5.7 million people infected with HIV, more than any other country. After years of official denial and delay, the government last year embarked on an anti-Aids drive, vowing to halve new infections and ensure that 80% of those who need them have access to Aids drugs by 2011.
By the time the month long World Cup ends on July 11, fans will have had scores of chances to be tested at mobile units parked in stadium car parks, help themselves from baskets of free condoms, and hear their football heroes talk about safe sex.
Vuvuzelas for Aids
Right to Care, one of the largest private providers of Aids reatment, counseling and testing, seized on an item that no South African football fan would be without: the vuvuzela.
The group's vuvuzelas are bright red with a message in white to "make noise for HIV!" - a plea to break the silence and stigma surrounding Aids. The vuvuzela, whose most subtle note is a blare, is perfect for the task.
Right to Care is selling its vuvuzelas for R20 using the proceeds to fund Aids treatment for the poor. The group's mobile testing units will be at stadiums and other places fans gather.
Football's stars also have been pulled in. David Beckham, after meeting HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers at a Cape Town clinic in his capacity as UNICEF goodwill ambassador, said one of the counselors told him more men need to support their partners to get treatment and care.
"I hope that I can do my bit to help promote this message ...and that men out there hear this and do their bit," the trend-setting Beckham said.
Songs about Aids, poverty
"FIFA has more members than the United Nations," Verhoosel said of the governing body's 208 football associations, compared to the
U.N.'s 192. "That shows you the power of FIFA, and the power of football." - (Sapa, June 2010)