Agali, Udeze, Red Ribbon Coalition join Coca-Cola to kick out HIV/AIDS
THEY were all there; stars from different walks of life, including Super Eagles former players, Victor Agali, Ifeanyi Udeze, Taiwo Enegwea and Abdul Issa, at the weekend turned the Sports Centre of the University of Lagos into a carnival centre, where music and football came together to join the battle against the dreaded HIV/AIDS syndrome.
The campaign, which has been on for five years, is one of the means the Red Ribbon Coalition, a congregation of social campaign outfits, including Coca-Cola Nigeria, helps in the battle against the deadly virus.
At the end of the 90-minute football game that pitched retired national team players against a team of professionals, the former Super Eagles stars won by a lone goal.
But as much as the football provided good entertainment to the audience, the real fun was in seeing some people living with the HIV/AIDS condition running around and kicking the ball without any sign of the ailment in them.
Speaking at the end of the event, a member of Team Corporate World, Dr. Udo Agomuonso, who is also the Head of Customer Leadership at Coca-Cola, Central, East and West Africa, said he decided to participate in the football match to show that there is hope for those diagnosed with the HIV virus.
He said his team derived their motivation from the realization that they are playing to reassure victims of the HIV/AIDS virus that they should not lose hope.
“Two years ago we lost by 6-0, last year was 6-1 and today we lost by only 1-0. We may draw with them next year or even beat them. The message is that no matter the odds, one can survive by fighting hard.
“In my team is someone living with the HIV virus and he played very well.
At the end of the game, we hugged to show that there is nothing with him,” Dr. Agomuonso said.
Explaining the initiative, Director, Public Affairs & Communication, Coca-Cola, Clem Ugorji, said the aim of the project is to create the awareness that HIV and AIDS should not kill anyone in the Nigeria of today.
He added: “More often than not, HIV/AIDS is seen as a death sentence. When someone is diagnosed with the condition, people star treating him as a pariah. That is wrong. We want people to know that those with HIV/AIDS can live their normal live like others.
“Nobody should die of HIV/AIDS because the treatment is readily available. One can walk into any health centre and get the drug because the supply is increasing.”
He explained that the football match was just one aspect of the campaign against the ailment, adding that there were some experts on hand to educate the public on the HIV/AIDS condition.
“We have tents all over the arena, where people can be tested to know their status and get educated on the ailment,” he added.
One of the enduring images at the end of the football game was in seeing Shola Umar, who is living with the HIV/AIDS condition, mixing and hugging other participants.
Umar, who is the assistant secretary of Network of People Living with the HIV/AIDS, has been living with the condition since 2002.
Umar disclosed that he no longer uses anti-retroviral therapy because he has no need for it any more.
“Since I noticed my status and treated it I have not fallen sick because I am in control of the situation.
“What I want to tell anybody diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is that he can live a normal live if he comes out to get help. If you don’t know where to go forb help, come to Lagos Island General Hospital where there are facilities to manage the condition. The person can ask of me because I work there,” he said.
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