|© UNICEF Guyana/2007/Williams|
|ICC Umpire Simon Taufel speaks to young cricketers, saying no one with HIV should be excluded from sport.|
By Stuart Sutton-Jones
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, 13 April 2007 – Sport is a great leveller that allows people to take part in healthy, life-enhancing activities. But sadly, that is not the case for people living with HIV and AIDS – especially children. Each day young people with HIV suffer the stigma associated with the disease and are marginalized in all parts of their lives, including sports.
Last week, Guyana’s Ministry of Education held a seminar in North Georgetown Secondary School to make young cricketers, teachers and local umpires more aware of the stigma faced by those living with HIV/AIDS.
Attending were two International Cricket Council (ICC) senior officials – the world’s top Umpire, Simon Taufel, and its most experienced Match Referee, Ranjan Madugalle – who had come to promote their view that any discrimination in sports was simply ‘not cricket’.
The two ICC guests were welcomed to the school by Headmaster Jerome Matthews before being seated in the audience, alongside Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy and UNICEF-Guyana Programme Officer Dennis Arends.
Making healthy decisions
Welcoming the guests, Mr. Ramsammy spoke of the need to ensure that people living with HIV were not excluded by co-workers, families and friends. “We must fight stigma,” he said. “With medication, those with HIV can still live normal, productive lives.”
|© UNICEF Guyana/2007/Williams|
|Ashantie Junor ties a ‘Band of Commitment’ onto the wrist of ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle.|
Speaking for UNICEF, Mr. Arends added that while having knowledge is good, it must be acted upon. “It is important that you children make the right choices – you have to act well and choose well in order to live good lives,” he said.
Mr. Taufel agreed, using a cricketing example to show the children why making correct decisions was so important. “How do you think Brian Lara would feel if I made a mistake and ruled him out?” he asked. “It’s even more important with you in life – you have to make the right decisions. Look after your bodies and your health. Choose properly.”
United against AIDS
When asked how he would react if someone on his team was HIV-positive, Mr. Taufel said it would make no difference at all: “Remember, they are a person first, and someone with HIV second.”
Mr. Madugalle then took part in a ‘Band of Commitment’ ceremony with student Ashantie Junor. They tied the bands around each other’s wrist while swearing to protect themselves and each other from HIV.
Later, the group went outside to play cricket in the schoolyard. All of them –local and international umpires, an international match referee, sports teachers and young cricketers – were united in their love for the sport and their commitment to ensure that, within the rules of the great game, no one will be excluded because of HIV and AIDS.
The Georgetown visit was organized by the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 partnership between the ICC, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS to highlight the situation of children and young people living with and affected by the disease.
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