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Cricket chief Malcolm Speed meets Indian children living with HIV

© UNICEF India/2007/Biswas
ICC chief Malcolm Speed (standing in centre), cricketer Virender Sehwag (crouching) and UNICEF Representative Cecilio Adorna (left) with children and staff at the Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital in New Delhi.

By Geeta Bandi-Phillips

NEW DELHI, India, 29 August 2007 – Malcolm Speed, the head of the International Cricket Council (ICC), met today with a group of Indian children living with HIV as part of an ongoing partnership to promote the global campaign, Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS.

Mr. Speed played cricket and chatted with children and doctors at the Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital in New Delhi. He was joined by Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag and UNICEF Representative in India Cecilio Adorna.

The visit highlighted the ICC’s commitment to raising awareness about the impact of HIV and AIDS on children, and helping to break the stigma surrounding the disease.

Impact of HIV/AIDS on children

The global campaign on AIDS and young people will be a key theme of the upcoming ICC Twenty 20 World Championships being hosted by South Africa from 11 to 24 September.

© UNICEF India/2007/Biswas
Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag shares a joke with Bilal, 5.

It’s all part of a unique partnership between the ICC, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the African Broadcast Media Partnership and the Kaiser Family Foundation, using the cricket tournament to draw attention to the impact of HIV and AIDS on the world’s children.

According to UNAIDS, every day there are nearly 1,800 new HIV infections in children under 15 worldwide, mostly through mother-to-child transmission. In India, as elsewhere, many of these children are in dire need of treatment and protection.  

Meeting at treatment centre

During an impromptu match at the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) Centre in Kalavati Saran Children’s Hospital today, the bat was small and ball was too big – but there was no holding back little Madhu (not her real name) as she smashed Mr. Speed’s slow ball for six.

Madhu, 9, was among the small group of HIV-positive children who met Mr. Speed, Mr. Sehwag and Mr. Adorna.

The children also drew colourful cards for their visitors and received autographs from Mr. Sehwag in return. The delegation spent a good amount of time with the children to learn about their daily routine living with HIV.

Four-year-old Vinod (not his real name) drew a face with eyes and a nose but no mouth. “What’s the face going to do, smile or laugh?” asked Mr. Speed. “Smile,” came the shy response, followed by the addition of a big smile to the face the boy had drawn.

‘An uplifting experience’

The happy faces of the children themselves hid the pain of stigma and discrimination they experience in everyday life due to their HIV status. Keeping children with HIV away from other children is a common practice in India. There have been many incidents where children were thrown out of schools or denied access to lifesaving health services due to their positive status.

Mr. Speed agreed that these are some of the challenges that the ICC-UNICEF partnership has to address in the global fight against HIV and AIDS.

“Cricket is all about the game,” he said. “Having a social awareness programme associated with it is not only an excellent way to reach out to the cricket fans but also an uplifting experience for the cricketers as well, and puts everything into perspective.”

Added Mr. Sehwag: “It is important for every one of us to spend time with HIV-positive children. It is a pleasure to be associated with the cause. When celebrities endorse a noble cause like this, it has more impact.”

Dan Thomas contributed to this story.




30 August 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Dan Thomas reports on ICC Chief Executive Malcom Speed's visit to a children's hospital in New Delhi. Filmed and produced by Omesh Matta.
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