Bangladeshi cricket icons express solidarity with HIV infected persons
By Iftikhar A Chowdhury
Dhaka, April 7, 2011: It was day to remember and cherish for some 30 members of a PLHIV (persons living with HIV) network in Dhaka as they got a rare opportunity to meet some of their favourite national cricket idols while the ICC Cricket World Cup fever was still running very high.
The members of the PLHIV network, most of whom preferred to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, felt particularly privileged as the cricketers made time to meet them and advocate their causes on 17 March just a couple of days ahead of the all-important Bangladesh-South Africa match. They also felt happy as they got a chance to be a part on the ongoing cricket world cup.
This meeting was a part of the Think Wise campaign. In this meeting, players got an opportunity to know the sufferings of the infected and affected persons and the stigma and discrimination they face on a day-to-day basis.
In this programme, Shakib, the Think Wise champion for Bangladesh said, HIV does not spread by shaking hands or giving hugs; it does not also spread if one has safe sex and sticks to one partner. Moreover, there has been tremendous advancement in the AIDS treatment and a person with HIV can live a normal and healthy life for many years.
He made an appeal to all that everybody should be more empathetic to the HIV infected and affected people. He urged all not to discriminate and stigmatize anybody in the name of HIV.
Meanwhile, national cricketer, Imrul Kayes, said, "The discrimination meted out to people living with HIV is very unfortunate. We, the players, feel that only proper awareness can end such deep-seated prejudices."
“It was interesting to have the opportunity to meet people who are infected by HIV and understand some of the issues that they face on a regular basis," he added. He also called on the media to be on the side of the HIV affected people to support them at times of social and psychological distress.
Zunaed Siddique urged everyone to accept PLHIVs as any other human being.
"Today's visit was an eye opener for me,” he said. “I honestly feel that people who have been infected by HIV should have access to everything good the society has to offer and they should be treated equally. We pledge our help in any way possible to fight the stigma and discrimination."
Using the profile of cricketers, the players hoped that they can ensure that the Think Wise campaign will not only help eliminate stigma and discrimination against PLHIV, but can also encourage young people to have an open mind so they are better empowered to protect themselves from HIV.
Players had a series of interactions with local community groups supported by UNAIDS and UNICEF throughout the three host countries – Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Teams wore red ribbons on their shirts in key matches in all quarter-finals, semi-finals and final as a mark of support for people living with HIV.
Think Wise Campaign is a joint effort of UNICEF, UNAIDS, ICC and Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI), where the popularity of cricket is used to make the youth aware of safe sex, HIV prevention and treatment.