Cricket stars visit centre for drug users to raise AIDS awarenessDHAKA, 11 January 2009. A big surprise awaited the service-seekers of the drop-in centre for injecting drug users (IDUs) in Nayabazar area of the old part of the Dhaka city as international and national cricket players visited the centre on Sunday January 11 to promote HIV/AIDS prevention among young people. The centre is run by the NGO CARE Bangladesh and has been supported by UNICEF as part of its project for HIV and AIDS prevention from 2004 to 2008.
Four cricketers from Zimbabwe and the home team Bangladesh came together to meet those attending the centre – including children and adolescents. They delivered a message of friendship and social acceptance as drug users and HIV positive people are neglected and ostracized by the society. Among the players were UNICEF Bangladesh Goodwill Ambassador Mohammed Ashraful and Sakib Al Hasan from the home side. The Zimbabwean squad was represented by Raymond Price and Vusimuzi Sibanda. International Cricket General Manager, David Richardson and the Sri Lankan team manager also took part in the visit.
Being there and showing their solidarity with the drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS is part of a global effort that the cricketers have been batting for – promoting the power of information so young people and others at risk can arm themselves against the HIV virus. Although Bangladesh is still considered as a low prevalence country for HIV/AIDS with less than 1% prevalence rate, it is estimated that 6.4% of drugs users are infected by HIV/AIDS in the capital city . Prevention efforts are crucial to avoid the spread of the epidemic among these vulnerable groups, especially drug users, sex workers and young people in general. The cricketers also advocated for more efforts in the drive against HIV/AIDS so that HIV positive people can access proper services.
"The ICC's partnership with UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Media AIDS Initiative has for the past five years raised awareness and reduced stigma around HIV/AIDS”, said David Richardson, ICC General Manager -Cricket. “By using high profile cricketers to deliver important messages, our work on HIV/AIDS tries to create awareness and to stop new infections and also encourages young people to live a healthy lifestyle. The ICC’s centenary celebrations provide us with an additional opportunity to deliver these messages across our 104 member countries.” Cricket is a hugely popular sport in many developing countries that are affected by HIV/AIDS and where children are vulnerable to many diseases.
The partnership between ICC, UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Media AIDS Initiative has contributed to the ‘Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS’ campaign. This global campaign launched in 2005 is aiming at drawing more attention to the plight of children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS. It promotes the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission; the access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV positive children; the prevention of infections among adolescents and young people and an enhanced support for children who are orphaned and left vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
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The commitment of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to fight HIV/ AIDS:
A series of activities have been delivered at major events including the ICC Cricket World Cup and the ICC World Twenty20 2007. This has included leading stars visiting local community projects and players wearing red ribbons to show their support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.