Smart Boxing: Using the Arena to Cascade HIV Awareness and Linkage to Services as presented by Kawooya Richard, Nume Ivan and Mirembe R. at the 14th International Virtual Conference
Background: Being a contact sport, boxing frequently exposes players to blood. Many countries still require boxers to be tested for HIV prior to participating in tournaments despite there not being any known cases of boxers contracting HIV from boxing itself. Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) conducts mandatory pre-tournament medical check-ups that include HIV testing. Boxers found HIV positive are not permitted to participate in matches and their boxing careers are cut short.
In October 2018 Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) launched a campaign dubbed “Box HIV out of Uganda” with the purpose of increasing HIV awareness, preventing infection and fighting stigma and discrimination among the boxing fraternity. To achieve this UBF, with support from the UNAIDS country office, partnered with AIDS Information Centre (AIC) and other organisations. The role of AIC in the partnership was to provide socio-behavioural change communication, HIV Testing Services (HTS) and linkage to HIV prevention and treatment services.
Materials & Methods: The strategy used for this campaign was through mobilisation and sensitization of leaders of boxing clubs and cascading this to the boxers and their fans.
Between October 2018 and December 2019 three workshops were conducted for leaders (including coaches, referees and administrators) and 12 for boxers from selected boxing clubs in Kampala city. Participants received training on basic information about HIV, Pre- and Post Exposure Prophylaxis, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision among other topics. Correct male and female condom use was demonstrated and HTS conducted during these trainings.
HTS were also provided during the mandatory medical check-up for boxers participating in 3 scheduled boxing championships and was made available to fans attending the boxing matches. Appropriate referrals were made for HIV prevention and treatment services including circumcision (performed by another partner).
Educational entertainment was used to convey HIV prevention and treatment messages via the use of placards displayed to boxers and fans in between boxing bouts.
• In total 2,889 persons (2,261 males, 651 females) were tested for HIV and 23 (17 males, 6 female) were
found positive. The yield was <1% compared to the national prevalence of 5.7% (UNAIDS).
• At the leaders’ trainings 157 (133 male, 24 female) were tested including 25 coaches and 20 referees. 2 males were diagnosed HIV positive. Coaches were empowered to become ambassadors to provide HIV awareness and link boxers to HIV services.
• 660 (229 female, 431 male) boxers were tested during trainings conducted at their boxing clubs. Of 9 positive results, 4 were female boxers. The age range for these was between 18-26 years.
• 1297 (1168 male, 129 female) boxers received HTS as part of the mandatory health checks at the weigh-ins preceding the tournaments. Only 6 male boxers tested HIV positive and the majority were first time testers.
• None of the HIV positive coaches or boxers was successfully linked to care despite being followed up. The majority were in denial.
• Of 775 fans tested, 6 (4 male, 2 female) yielded positive results
• An estimated 5,000 fans received HIV prevention and treatment messages.
Conclusion: Although boxing is a male dominated sport, it can be used to reach both young men and women with HIV services. The strategy of engaging coaches and boxing club leadership provides a sustainable model through which HIV awareness and referral for HIV services can be made.