Bangladesh and Bermuda cricketers stamp out HIV/AIDS stigma
By Stuart Sutton-Jones and Leslyn Thompson
ARANGUEZ, Trinidad, 23 March 2007 – ICC World Cup 2007 cricketers from Bangladesh and Bermuda teamed up with children and young people in Trinidad on Thursday to help break the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.
The cricketers were visiting the Aranguez Government Secondary School, outside the Trinidadian capital, Port of Spain, where students were taking part in an HIV awareness programme organized by the Trinidad and Tobago Alliance for Sports and Physical Education (TTASPE).
Exchanging bands of commitment to fight stigma and discrimination, students and players swore to protect each other from HIV and AIDS.
‘Without you the world is nothing’
Habibul Bashar and Shahriar Nafees, captain and vice-captain of the Bangladesh team, committed themselves to the fight against HIV/AIDS. “It is a wonderful world out there, and we need you alive,” Mr. Bashar told the young crowd.
Bermudan player Lionel Cann told the students that in cricket it is OK to play hard, but you must protect yourself. “Educate yourself, you are the future. Without you the world is nothing,” he said.
The visit was organized as part of the alliance between the International Cricket Council (ICC), UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS to highlight the situation of children and young people affected by HIV.
The partnership, in turn, is part of the global Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign launched by UNICEF, UNAIDS and many other partners at the United Nations in October 2005.
Accompanied by the Director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, Dr. Karen Sealey, and UNICEF Special Envoy to the Caribbean Karin Sham Poo, the cricketers were welcomed to the school by its principal, Patricia Adams.
“The school has a vibrant abstinence club and a group called TRIM [The Responsibility Is Mine] that promotes healthy lifestyles among adolescents,” she said. TRIM member Michelle Bullen explained that meeting the cricketers was a good opportunity, helping them to gain more knowledge and make more informed choices.
“HIV is everybody’s business,” Dr. Sealey told the schoolchildren. “We need to make sure that children are at the heart of every strategy to combat HIV. We have to bowl out HIV and stump out stigma and discrimination.”
Ms. Sham Poo spoke of the need to make the next generation “AIDS-free.”
United against AIDS
Later, the cricketers joined the students at the TTASPE sports circuit. Supported by the other members of the Bermuda team, Mr. Cann helped students with their cricket technique, making sure the lessons learned – like those learned about HIV/AIDS – would stay with them.
“This is fun, man,” he said. “This is a good thing to do.”
Given the chance to bowl some questions at the Bermudan team, one student asked, “If one of your team members was HIV-positive, how would you react?”
“It would make no difference to us,” replied team captain Irvine Romaine.
“I would tell that person they could be anything they wanted to be. This would not be a problem for us,” added Mr. Cann. Clearly, stigma and discrimination have no place among these sportsmen.