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World Cup 2010: AIDS Groups Protest FIFA Ban Policy

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JOHANNESBURG — AIDS awareness groups said Saturday they are protesting against FIFA for not allowing them to distribute health-related information and condoms at World Cup stadiums and fan events in South Africa.

But FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said the governing body had not received any requests from organizations wishing to do so.

An alliance of 10 leading South African HIV/AIDS organizations said FIFA has not permitted civic groups to set up booths and small "wellness centers" at FIFA controlled venues. Mark Heywood, a spokesman for the alliance, said the tournament was an unprecedented chance to bring AIDS awareness to millions of fans.

"We have not received any requests, that we are aware of at least, from these organizations saying that they had any problems related to any of their activities," Odriozola said. "Since we haven't received any requests, I am not aware of any decision or any possibility that they would not have been allowed or would have been allowed. We simply don't have the request."

FIFA has launched its own HIV campaign with host city authorities by encouraging them to install "fan service areas" in the cities during the tournament, which starts on June 11 and finishes on July 11. FIFA said in a statement Saturday it would distribute basic medicines, sunscreen and condoms for free.

City medical departments and ambulance services were also expected to make available HIV information leaflets and condoms.

FIFA also says HIV prevention messages and advertisements for condoms will be shown on giant screens at venues. AIDS and health awareness training were also included in FIFA's "Football for Hope" program alongside the setting up of youth centers in impoverished townships across South Africa.

Heywood, who is also vice chairman of the South African National AIDS Council chaired by South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, said civic groups were still not allowed to operate inside FIFA designated areas in and around World Cup venues to reach the core of fans and supporters.

He said FIFA's support program missed the crucial target of the bulk of fans and revelers inside its venues.

"It is disgraceful conduct," Heywood told The Associated Press. "We are being denied a massive opportunity."