Cricket Stars Go Out to Bat for HIV Awareness
World cricket stars unite in a call for young fans to “get the facts” about HIV prevention and to help eliminate AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, through a United Nations and International Cricket Council HIV awareness raising campaign running alongside the ICC World Twenty20 (WT20) tournament in Sri Lanka.
Rallying support for the campaign known as “Think Wise”—an initiative of the ICC, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – stars from the South African Cricket team including JP Duminy and Wayne Parnell interacted with young people living with, affected by and/ or working on preventing HIV in Colombo this afternoon. The cricketers were accompanied by officials from UNAIDS, UNICEF and ICC.
The South Africa team players spoke openly about HIV, using slogans from the Think Wise campaign to stress the importance of being informed, staying protected and eliminating harmful stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV.
“In my country South Africa, across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the whole world, young people need to ‘Get the Facts’ about HIV – because when you know the facts, you know how to protect yourself,” said JP Duminy.
Encouraging young fans to mix their passion for cricket with a passion for action on AIDS, the South African cricketers also gave the youth attending the event tips on how to improve their batting, bowling and fielding skills during a specialized coaching session.
“We are all striving for the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Cricket and cricketing stars have the power to unite and reach beyond national boundaries, driving efforts towards ‘getting to zero’ and ending AIDS,” said Steven Kraus, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific.
Over 40% of the new HIV infections globally are being reported among 15-24 year olds. This means every day another 3000 young people are infected with the virus. Such statistics coupled with the reality that stigma against people living with HIV and people from key risk communities is still rife clearly indicates that improving HIV prevention efforts among young people and ending discrimination are critical for moving towards global visions of an AIDS-free generation.
“Stigma and discrimination undermine our vision of AIDS-free generation. This can be realized only if we all respect the rights of those living with or affected by HIV and AIDS," said Rachel Odede, HIV Advisor in the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia.
For almost a decade, and with the help of Think Wise Champions including Virender Sehwag (India), Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies) among others, the ICC/UNAIDS/UNICEF Think Wise campaign has used the power of cricket to help address key issues around AIDS, particularly for young people across the major cricket-playing countries.
Underlining his support for the Think Wise campaign during the WT20 tournament, Indian star batsman and Think Wise Champion Virender Sehwag said: “Through cricket we can reach millions of people and the message is clear: Let’s talk more about HIV, let’s get informed. We know that stigma kills. Let’s “Think Wise”; don’t stigmatize.”
ICC CEO David Richardson said: “The profile and reach of the ICC World T20 gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and reduce stigma about HIV and AIDS and, along with the players, we are delighted to help this cause.”
For the duration of the WT20, a public service announcement featuring Kumar Sangakkara and Virender Sehwag will be screened at all tournament matches. Players from the teams taking part in the men’s and women’s semi-finals will wear red ribbons as a sign of solidarity for people living with HIV and umpires and referees will also sport the Think Wise logo on their shirt sleeves.