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Cheering for life and cricket - Cricket Match Played in Bhopal to Mark World Aids Day

© Prakash Hatvalne/UNICEF India/2010
Captains at the start of a cricket match cricket match played in the Bhopal city to mark World Aids Day.

By Anil Gulati

Bhopal, 2 December 2010 - It was a cricket match that symbolized courage and love for life. On Wednesday December 1, a cricket match was played in the Bhopal city to mark World Aids Day.
 
Ten of the 30 players participating in the 20-20 friendly cricket match were HIV positive The match was organized by the Madhya Pradesh Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (MPNP+) and supported by UNICEF.  MPNP+ is an association of activists working for HIV positive people throughout the state.

The competing teams, the Minister’s XI and the Project Director’s XI were captained by Minister of State for Health of Madhya Pradesh, Mahendra Hardia and Project Director of Madhya Pradesh State Aids Control Society, Dr Manohar Agnani.

Minister bats to end discrimination:
 
“No doubt forums and seminars on December 1 are informative and spread awareness. But a cricket match is a brilliant idea,’’ said the Health Minister .

“It sends an instant message to society that HIV positive persons can play a game of cricket with as much energy and enthusiasm as any other person. People generally have the wrong idea about HIV positive and people living with AIDS, cricket match is to defy that theory. I am playing this match to defy discrimination against those infected by the virus and help spread message that playing a game of cricket, sharing a meal or shaking hands with them don’t spread the virus,’’ the minister added

Cheering for life and cricket

Two years ago when Sunita (name changed), resident of Banda in Sagar district, tested positive with HIV, her world just shattered. Her husband who worked as a truck-driver died of complications from the HIV infection in June 2008.

“He was ill for a year and then the doctors suggested we both test for the virus. My husband died two months after diagnosis and I was left alone to face the world with the virus,” Sunita said. “Everyone abandoned me including my in-laws. I went back to my parents house and shut myself into a room.

Several months later, activists from the MPNP+ contacted me. They asked me one question: Did I want to live life again like a normal person? I said `yes’ and joined their campaign."

At the cricket match, Sunita sat and cheered for her team. “The cricket match represents our determination to live and fight. We have not lost to the HIV virus,” she said.

“Why should people discriminate against us and think we will not live any longer? That stigma against us needs to go. We have the right to earn a living and be happy. All HIV positive persons who are here to play and cheer for this cricket match, work in their own fields. We earn our two meals a day, so why should people treat us like untouchables? And look, we are playing cricket!”

On the field, it was hard to differentiate between persons who were infected and their other teammates. It was a regular game of cricket on a winter afternoon where the Health Minister also rolled his arm over. Running, chasing the ball, boundaries, sixers and the cheering from the audience filled the air with true sporting spirit.

Cricket to spread awareness

President of MPNP+ Manoj Verma explained, “Even with a lot of awareness programmes, HIV positive persons are still not being accepted normally by society. Sometimes even hospitals and doctors refuse to treat them or conduct medical surgery on these patients”

“It leaves a bad scar on the minds of the infected persons who with their own courage are fighting a war against the virus. On AIDS Day,we chose cricket seeing the popularity of the game. Our aim through this cricket match was to spread awareness in society, as well as strengthen the infected victims with renewed courage to fight HIV and live a regular life," Verma said.

 

 
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