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Opinions of Thursday, 1 December 2005

Columnist: Ayiku, Charles Nii

HIV AIDS And Sports In Ghana

The statistics for HIV in Ghana, no matter how they are presented are frightening. Currently, the issue of AIDS have taken a different turn and according to a UNAIDS report, West and Central Africa show no signs of changing HIV infection except for urban parts of Burkina Faso where prevalence appears to be declining. While awareness in Ghana of the epidemic is thought to be over 95%, this awareness has yet to translate into widespread behavioral change.

While awareness in Ghana of the epidemic is thought to be over 95%, this awareness has yet to translate into widespread behavioral change. As AIDS is a very contentious issue at the moment in our country. I am sure you have all heard a lot on the topic of AIDS. So I wish to focus on that of the effects of AIDS on Ghana sports.

We are a country very passionate about sports, especially soccer, and so we need to control the spread of AIDS. Otherwise, AIDS will greatly affect our sports. But then, have we thought about these questions, such as, what are the risks of blood-to-blood contraction? Are our Sporting first aid facilities adequate? And what actions have and will be taken by the National Sports Council?

At the moment Ghana is one of the superpowers of African soccer, containing many key components to ensure lasting successes on the sports fields of the world. Our population is large and diverse enough to ensure large numbers of elite sportsmen and women proceed through the ranks, to superstar status. Our wonderful climate allows for all-year round participation. All these ingredients have allowed Ghana to achieve sporting excellence, and the potential for even greater things is huge. Yet the threat posed by AIDS is a formidable obstacle in the development of Ghana sport and will surely hinder the progress.

The greatest worry for Ghana is the rate of infection amongst young people this will have disastrous effects right through the ranks of our sport from junior level, right through to the senior national teams.

Another contentious issue will be that of the risks of blood-to-blood contraction in sport. But the risks of this happening are very minimal, in fact you are more likely to win the lottery, or die on the roads then contract the virus while playing sport.

The risks do increase in contact sports though, such as, boxing and other combat sports. Studies show that the risk of a boxer contracting AIDS while fighting, are once in every 4760 fights, and these risks become even greater in the small gyms, were boxing is extremely popular, but the facilities are shocking. Gyms at Bukom and other parts of Accra reveal this. For example many of the boxers share mouth-guards, without washing them out correctly; this obviously puts them at great danger.

Legal and moral arguments will always pop up, whilst dealing with a sensitive subject such as AIDS, when a professional sports star signs a contract with a club, they have to undergo a medical exam, legally they cannot be tested for HIV, as it is discriminative. But in the multi-billion dollar industry of sports today, the stars are the clubs assets, and surely they need to protect them.

To practice as a surgeon or dentist one cannot by law, be HIV positive, but surely you couldn?t stop someone playing sport because they are HIV positive. But what about his or her opponents and team-mates, surely they deserve the right to know the risks they are taking.

AIDS is a major problem, and there is a serious need for all sporting bodies to take actions in tackling the problem posed by it. They must educate at grassroots level to ensure a healthy future for Ghana sport.

Sports is remarkable; it has the ability to break all barriers, social, economical and racial, it brings people from all walks of life together, united for a cause Sport is an integral part of life for all Ghanaians and we must use its great influence to eliminate AIDS before AIDS eliminates Ghana sports.



Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.