|© UNICEF South Africa/2007/ Mulenga|
|International Cricket Council chief Malcolm Speed with visitors, Principal Abraham Sonti and students from Luleka Primary school.|
By Davis Mulenga
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, 18 September 2007 – International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Malcolm Speed went to bat against HIV and AIDS at the weekend and challenged South African children to take up cricket.
Accompanied by his wife Alison and UNICEF ESARO Associate Director Afshan Khan, Mr Speed was visiting Luleka Primary school in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha Township and showed he can still hold his own against energetic bowlers less than a quarter of his age.
Building on a successful partnership at the ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies earlier this year, the ICC, UNAIDS, SCORE and UNICEF have teamed up at the ICC Twenty20 championships in South Africa to draw attention to the plight of children and young people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and promote the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign.
Replacing stigma with support
“Give the children a cricket bat and a ball and they are in the game. This just shows the power of sport in shaping these children into adults society wants them to be,” Mr. Speed said. “The ICC support for this initiative is grounded in the belief that cricket can bring real hope to millions of children around the world, in particular South Africa, especially those impacted by HIV and AIDS in one way or another.
“By getting every child involved in the game, it underlines the big message of destigmatizing HIV and AIDS. It also stresses support for everyone infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
"This is the future of cricket. It is also the future of the country. The children can excel on the playing field and in other areas. It is hoped this campaign can help in creating a huge reservoir of sporting and academic talent,” Mr. Speed added.
|© UNICEF South Africa/2007/ Mulenga|
|ICC Chief Malcolm Speed playing cricket with children from Luleka Primary school.|
Speed’s observations recognised ongoing efforts to step up awareness and prevention of HIV and AIDS prevention among children. UNAIDS statistics show that every day more than 1,000 children under 15 are dying from AIDS-related illnesses. To date, more than 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
A daunting situation
With the highest number of HIV-positive people in the world, South Africa has made important strides in the provision of treatment in the recent past. The country has the fastest growing uptake and largest number of people on ARV treatment in the world, yet, AIDS remains a leading cause of death in women and children in the country. UNICEF says improvements in child health and survival will be dependent on the acceleration of access to HIV prevention and treatment for both mothers and children.
Despite this daunting situation, the world still thinks of AIDS as a disease that primarily affects adults. The Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign started in 2005 aims to remind the world that children are missing from the minds of global policymakers, national governments, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions and public groups responding to the AIDS pandemic.
Mr. Speed has a long-standing interest in promoting awareness of HIV and AIDS and growing budding cricket talent. He has carried out similar tours in other countries, with the most recent being in New Delhi in August and in the Caribbean during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007.
“Cricket has the power to deal with some of the challenges faced in the fight against HIV and AIDS. These include destigmatizing the disease and bringing it to the attention of policy makers, governments and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that children’s right and needs are addressed,” said UNICEF’s Afshan Khan.
“Our partnership with UNAIDS and the ICC goes to the core of UNICEF’s work of ensuring health, education, equality and protection for every child,” she added.
School Principal Abraham Sonti spoke of the need to improve sporting facilities at the school. He said: “We can focus the children on sports and academic work to steer them from the social vices rife in the communities where they come from.”
Every minute of every day, AIDS costs the world another child’s life. It’s time for us all to Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS. Donate now!
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