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Wed Oct 22 03:36:51 SAST 2014

Rugby fans back HIV test campaign

CLAIRE KEETON | 11 December, 2010 19:050 Comments

Rugby fans with painted faces lined up on Friday to take HIV tests at the HSBC Sevens World Series rugby tournament in George.

Springbok supporters Maria and Gerhardus van den Heever decided to take their first HIV test together after being approached at the event.

"It is great to test people at a rugby festival where the mood is good and people are more open," said the couple, who have been married for 11 years.

The testing was so popular that the organisers set up two more booths, said Richard Delate, the country director of Johns Hopkins Health and Education in SA.

The mobile testing at the tournament was conducted by the Western Cape Department of Health and the organisation Brothers for Life, which Johns Hopkins sponsors.

Springbok rugby captain and Brothers for Life ambassador John Smit kicked off the latest HIV-testing campaign in November.

"Even if it is a nervous exercise, it is a few minutes out of your life, and knowledge is power. This is why I was happy to take a public HIV test," he said afterwards.

"As a man and a Brother for Life, I would like to encourage all South African men and women to do the right thing. It is critical that we all know our HIV status, for the sake of ourselves and our loved ones."

Springbok fan Chris Quinn, 23, said: "It is important to know your status for yourself and any sexual partners. I think it's good to do it at a rugby tournament, as it makes it more mainstream."

A veteran fan who knows his HIV status, Kevin Witbooi, 47, added: "Testing at a rugby tournament is the perfect opportunity to get different types of people to test."

Sevens brand manager Sarah Williams said on Friday: "We have 16 of the world's top teams competing here for a trophy, and we wanted to align ourselves with this testing initiative. We recognised from a sports perspective that it is important."

  • The Sunday Times and the 5th SA Aids Conference are also promoting HIV testing through a photographic competition called Now I Know.

To enter, take a picture of yourself with a cellphone camera doing an HIV test.

The best photo of the month will be published in the paper, with a profile of the winner, every month from January until the conference in June next year. Send your photo with your name to 0826991710 by January 1.

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