Cricket idol Shakib calls for ending culture of secrecy on HIV/AIDS
By Iftikhar Ahmed Chowdhury
Dhaka, 2 September 2012: National cricket icon Shakib Al Hasan called for shunning the culture of secrecy regarding the issue of HIV and AIDS so that the country’s adolescent and youth populations can be saved from the onslaught of this deadly virus.
The ace all-rounder of international cricket advocated for open sharing of knowledge and accurate information flow on HIV and AIDS transmission and prevention at all levels of the society including schools, clubs and media in order to develop an appropriate national response to the HIV threat.
“When young people receive correct, complete information about HIV and AIDS, they gain the power to make informed decisions. They also acquire the tools to reverse misconceptions and social stigma,” said Shakib.
“So, making HIV and AIDS information and health services accessible to young people encourages them to use these services for protecting themselves and others,” said the top-ranked cricketer of the world in both formats of the game.
Shakib, who is the Think Wise spokesperson for Bangladesh, said at a media briefing held at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on August 29 that youth-friendly and age-specific HIV knowledge and services must be ensured to protect young people against the virus.
The media briefing on Think Wise campaign was jointly organized by Bangladesh Cricket Board, UNICEF and UNAIDS just a couple of days before the national team left for the Caribbean to warm up for the upcoming T-20 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka later this month.
The Think Wise initiative builds on a long-term partnership between the International Cricket Council (ICC), the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI). It has reached out to the global cricketing fraternity to work together in responding to the global AIDS crisis.
The partnership seeks to educate cricket players, coaches, commentators, broadcasters, volunteers and spectators about the AIDS epidemic, particularly around prevention, stigma and service delivery issues as around 10 million people living with HIV are from Test-playing nations. This number accounts for more than a quarter of all the people across the world that are HIV-positive and a sizeable portion of these people live in South Asia.
Asked by newsmen whether he really understood HIV issues, Shakib surprised the media by casually explaining to them the ABC (abstinence, being faithful to one partner, condom use) of HIV and AIDS prevention.
Reacting to another question about his contribution to this campaign, Shakib said, “Cricket can be a vital tool to fight against ignorance, social stigma and discrimination. As sporting idols, we must save our adolescents and youths by inspiring them to think wise and take informed decisions.” He also reiterated his desire to work more closely on this issue in future as young people of the country are most at risk from this virus.
Shakib was announced the Think Wise champion for Bangladesh by ICC in November 2010. The other Think Wise champions and cricket super-stars are Nathan Bracken from Australia, Isa Guha from England, Kumar Sangakkara from Sri Lanka, Graeme Smith from South Africa and Virender Sehwag from India.
In Bangladesh, the most at risk population, such as female sex workers, injecting drug users, MSM (men having sex with men), transgenders, street and brother based children, Yaba drug users widely lack knowledge about ways of transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).