Lagos Nigeria, November 27, 2015 – To mark World AIDS Day 2015, the Red Ribbon Coalition, an alliance of strategic NGOs and private sector partners in Nigeria, has concluded plans to directly provide free HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) services for about 7500 persons and reach over 3.5million people with correct, up-to-date HIV/AIDS information. 

Plans to actualise these include a four-day community outreach in various LGAs across Nigeria beginning from Tuesday December 1, and a grand finale on Saturday December 5 with a Celebrity Novelty HIV/AIDS awareness football match at UNILAG Sports Complex, Akoka, Lagos featuring ex-Super Eagles’ players. Other plans include stimulation of a broader stakeholders involvement, and various impactful activities targeted at reaching many Nigerians with free HIV/AIDS services to mark this year’s event which is venerated globally on December 1. 

The coalition which is chiefly funded by global beverage giant, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and MAC AIDS Fund (Makers of MAC Cosmetics), comprises three NGOs including Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI), Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF) and Society for Family Health (SFH); private partners like Owu Sportswear, Nigeria Business Coalition Against AIDS (NIBUCAA), the media, ex-Super Eagles stars, among several others.   

On the need for an alliance against HIV/AIDS, the coalition’s convener, Emeka Mba who is also the Community Affairs Manager, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited , said: “In addition to mobilizing and sensitizing people to know their status with the provision of free HCT in a friendly environment we are poised to tackle issues of stigmatization, discrimination and fear of getting tested by promoting social inclusion and adequate care for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and stimulating Stakeholders involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

“We also want to reach about 3.5milion people with correct, up-to-date HIV/AIDS information via various platforms, while covering the area of Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission, PMTCT. A pan-Nigeria coalition that will leverage on each party’s strength and network is no doubt a better way of pushing back the scourge. Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited is committed to building partnerships that promote development and growth, actively participating in activities that bring social equity to the table.” He added.  

YEDI’s Executive Director, Anu Ishola noted that the star-studded Red Ribbon Novelty match which will feature ex-Super Eagles stars like Emmanuel Babayaro, Peter Rufai, Celestine Babayaro, Kanu Nwankwo, Victor Ikpeba and OAPs among others will provide an environment conducive to a large turnout of young people to access free HCT services while being treated to a rare but entertaining game of soccer alongside music, light refreshment and other fun activities. 

While expressing gratitude to Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, MAC AIDS Fund and members of the coalition, she stressed the urgent need for the government, corporate organisations, individuals and all hands to be on deck in the fight against the HIV pandemic. 

“This is the first time a coalition of NGOs and private partners are organizing a pan-Nigeria World AIDS Day event. About 3.4million Nigerians are living with HIV according to WHO statistics, and sadly enough, many of these people don’t even know they have it. A major and faster route to sustainable progress in this fight is when we all come together. Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited can’t do this alone, MAC Cosmetics alone can’t. Imagine what we can achieve in the coming years with many stakeholders on board,” she said. 

Buttressing Miss Ishola’s statement, YEF’s Executive Director, Mrs. Iwalola Akin Jimoh said, “For instance, OWU Sportswear is providing jerseys for the novelty match, Wazobia FM, Cool FM and NigeriaInfo FM, Channels, STV, Vanguard, The Guardian, NewswatchTimes and several others are giving us elaborate media support, UNILAG is supporting us with the venue for the novelty march, various counselling and testing partners across Nigeria, led by SFH, are involved with quality HCT services.” She hinted that elaborate plans were in place to make the projected figures a reality with the technical contribution, integrity, and wealth of experience of Society for Family Health (SFH), especially in the areas of quality HCT, noting that SFH is one of Nigeria's largest NGO taking the lead in a drive to achieve healthy living.

“The ex-Super Eagles Stars agreed to participate in the novelty match for free to further raise awareness and mitigate stigma, discrimination and fear of testing. If we can directly reach 7500 persons now, with more collaborative efforts, that figure will substantially increase next year thereby making the HIV component of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals a reality,” she added. 

About The Red Ribbon Coalition: The Red Ribbon Coalition was established barely two months ago to join in the global fight against HIV/AIDS by leveraging on corporate and individual strength of members and articulating highly impactful and life-changing innovative approaches to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, fight stigma, discrimination and fear of testing, provide referral and follow-up care to those who test positive, mobilise support for PLWHA, as well as rally more stakeholders involvement.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: Coalition’s Implementers

Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI) is a Nigeria-run NGO that focuses on educating, empowering, and inspiring youth and community development in Nigeria using sound, proven models that get results. YEDI’s first program, Grassroot Soccer Nigeria, is currently being implemented in over 400 sites in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom and Ogun States and has had more than 55,000 young graduates. The program adapted the highly effective football for development model piloted by YEDI’s international NGO partner, Grassroot Soccer for Nigeria.

Youth Empowerment Foundation (YEF) is a non-profit NGO working to improve knowledge, behaviours and skills for young people in the areas of sexual reproductive health, HIV awareness and prevention, personal and team leadership. YEF reaches young people in partnership with schools and community groups as well as through an HIV Hotline, using sport to deliver much of the work as it improves physical fitness, supports good mental health and builds teamwork skills.

Society for Family Health (SFH) was founded in 1985 by Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti (late), Justice Ifeyinwa Nzeako (late), Pharmacist Dahiru Wali and Phil Harvey. It is one of Nigeria’s largest non-governmental organisations with a mission to empower Nigerians, particularly the poor and vulnerable to lead healthier lives. SFH works with the private and public sectors, adopting social marketing and behaviour change communication to improve access to essential health information, services, and products to motivate the adoption of healthy behaviours.