A two-year operational policy is being developed by the National Sports Commission to fight the scourge of HIV/AIDS among youths who are potential athletes that would represent the country at local and international sports competitions.
Acting director of sports medicine in the National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr. Adeyinka Aladesanmi, said during a workshop on HIV/AIDS for medical doctors under the services of the NSC said sports has become a universal language through which young men and women can be educated on the dangers of HIV/AIDS .
"Youths are more vulnerable to AIDS. You can get these young people through sports and you could engineer universal change. During competitions, many youths come to the stadium or sports venues to watch events and we can use that opportunity to get the message of AIDS across to them. This is why we want to use role models in sports, people like Mikel Obi, Kanu Nwankwo, Samuel Okon Peter, among others, to help talk to these youths and athletes on the dangers inherent in HIV/AIDS. They can influence the young people on the need to guide against these deadly diseases. We also intend to use coaches, referees and sports administrators who are in charge of teams and federation to help pass the message across by way of education".
The NSC, in collaboration with the UNICEF, who are providing the logistics and technical manpower, are identifying the platform, resources and means to effectively reach out to athletes and youths in the society.
UNICEF HIV/AIDS prevention specialist, Dr. Victoria Isiramen said there has been no plan and systematic way to fight this deadly disease by the sports commission, hence the collaboration with the NSC and NACA to use sports to reach out to the teeming youths.
"A two-year development plan to actualise this is being laid out now and the UNICEF is ready to develop the capacity and provide the needed technical support. Athletes will benefit from it. They will be better informed about what they are supposed to know and do to fight this monster".
Dr. Isiramen said all the medical personnel that attended the seminar would be available to educate athletes and youths during competitions, noting that zonal and state offices of the HIV/AIDS control would be established.
Isiramen noted that non- existence of a HIV/AIDS policy in the NSC has been responsible for the increase in the number of athletes acquiring the diseases.
The UNICEF expert identified lack of funds and strategic plan, as well as poor accessibility of facilities in sports to be responsible for the increase in HIV/AIDS spread among youths and athletes.