THINKWISE – don’t stigmatise
Cricket world cup becomes a means of addressing gaps in HIV knowledge among youngsters
By Mervyn Fletcher
DHAKA, BANGLADESH, February 21, 2011 - It’s the final of a girls’ cricket tournament in Bangladesh.
Cricket demands high levels of fitness, co-ordination and self-discipline and this trophy has been fiercely contested by teams from across this highly-populated country.
Here, the buzz is not only about cricket; all those taking part, including spectators, have been learning about HIV and how to prevent new infections.
Information has been woven into match commentaries and HIV awareness slogans – ‘Be aware, save yourself’ - adorn pink t-shirts distributed to spectators.
Knowledge about HIV/AIDS had clearly been absorbed by the young cricket spectators we spoke to attending the final of girls’ cricket tournament.
Arzoo (19) said: “HIV is a virus. It enters the human body destroying the immune system. There are many ways of transmitting HIV, for example by blood transfusion, unsafe sex, and through infected lactating mothers.”
Spectator Runa(13) said: “I now know how AIDS isn’t transmitted. You are not infected with HIV by sharing a meal with an infected person, or bathing or socialising with them.”
And fellow spectator, Awlad (16), said: We shouldn’t share needles and we should use condoms during sex.”
The power of cricket
Cricket attracts hundreds of millions of avid followers worldwide, no more so than in south Asia where no opportunity is missed to indulge the passion.
A campaign, known as THINKWISE, is drawing upon the extraordinary power of the cricket to tackle AIDS issues.
THINKWISE is a partnership between the International Cricket Council, UNICEF, and UNAIDS during this year’s cricket World Cup, which runs from 19 February through to 2 April, with matches across India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Some of cricket’s biggest names are playing a leading role in THINKWISE, including international cricketing stars Virender Sehwag, of India, and Sri Lankan team captain Kumar Sangakkara.
Another THINKWISE supporter, Bangladesh cricket team captain Shakib Al Hasan said: “As cricketers we have social responsibilities. We want to leave behind a legacy of social awareness of HIV and AIDS.”
The THINKWISE campaign uses the red ribbon emblem to signify support and cricket teams will wear red ribbons on their shirts in key matches during the competition.
UNICEF country offices in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have organised children’s cricketing activities around the 2011 Cricket World Cup in order to bring HIV/AIDS knowledge to a wider audience.
The hope is that a lasting legacy of the 2011 Cricket World Cup will be more young people are armed with knowledge that continues to reverse the global spread of HIV.