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UNICEF and world-class cricketers team up to battle HIV and AIDS

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

By Amy Farkas

NEW YORK, USA, 25 January 2011 – As fans around the world count down to the ICC Cricket World Cup beginning on 19 February with a match in Bangladesh, players and squads from the 14 competing countries are teaming up to help combat the AIDS epidemic.

VIDEO: Watch a public service announcement with international cricket stars Virender Sehwag of India and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka promoting the ‘Think Wise’ campaign on HIV/AIDS awareness, developed for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.  Watch in RealPlayer


Under the banner, ‘Think Wise: The Global Cricket AIDS Partnership,’ the International Cricket Council, UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Media AIDS Initiative – along with numerous local partners – have launched a campaign asking fans around the world to get the the facts, protect themselves and avoid stigmatizing those in their communities who are living with HIV and AIDS.

The campaign will run throughout the ICC Cricket World Cup via television and online media, and with in-stadium messaging in the three countries hosting the tournament: Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. It is also being rolled out in schools and communities in match-playing cities to engage young people in HIV/AIDS education.

“In India, cricket is like religion. Everyone worships the game, and there is no better medium to communicate anything of significance,” said Shreya, 14, a student in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu State. Shreya is just one among hundreds of children across eights states in India participating in innovative cricket and HIV education programmes. The school programme is a critical facet of the ‘Think Wise’ campaign.

© International Cricket Council/2010
Boys play cricket in Sri Lanka, one of the three host countries for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.

Engaging young people

The participating schools are building on the popularity of cricket, and excitement about the ICC Cricket World Cup, to engage young people in interactive HIV-prevention learning opportunities.

“Getting information on HIV from cricket players, our role models and heroes, makes us want to sit up and listen. The sessions are not boring. They are really active, and it is fun being part of games and group activities,” said one student.

The programme was designed by UNICEF India in partnership with MAMTA, a well-known non-governmental organization working on HIV and AIDS issues. It ensures that information on HIV is imparted in ways that are respectful and honest. Sessions open with ‘Think Wise’ films and discussions about cricket, breaking the ice and getting the young participants engaged in the process. Famous cricketers then deliver key HIV messages.

Even the session on stigma and discrimination is delivered in a participatory style that engages students in games and lively conversations.

© International Cricket Council/2010
South African national team captain Graeme Smith speaks to young cricket players in the West Indies as part of his work with UNICEF to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Breaking down barriers

All sports can help to break down barriers and overcome differences of caste and class. For this reason, cricket provides an ideal platform to impart life-saving HIV information to diverse audiences.

In fact, UNICEF has seen firsthand the role that cricket can play in educating young people about healthy behaviour. For example, UNICEF collaborates with Cricket Namibia, the governing body of the sport in that country, in implementing Kwata Cricket, a programme that promotes sport and play as vital elements of child and adolescent health and well-being.

Eveleen Kejarukua, 11, who lives in a township outside of Windhoek, Namibia, joined Kwata Cricket after convincing her mother that it was the best way to help her deal with peer pressure to engage in early sexual activity and underage drinking. While initially hesitant to let her daughter participate in the group, Eveleen’s mother now says her daughter appreciates the risks of HIV and alcohol and drug use, and that she is more confident.

© UNICEF Namibia/2010
In Namibia, Eveleen Kejarukua, 11, is proud of the skills she has acquired through Kwata Cricket, a UNICEF-supported programme that promotes sport and play as vital elements of child and adolescent health and well-being.

HIV in cricketing countries

Of the estimated 33.3 million people living with HIV worldwide, nearly a quater are from major cricketing countries. India and South Africa alone have nearly 8 million people living with the disease.

“You only have to look at the statistics to understand why I am passionate ... to raise awareness about HIV,” said South African national team captain Graeme Smith.

“Two million people die of AIDS-related deaths each year, and nearly three-quarters of them come from sub-Saharan Africa,” he added. “By wearing a red ribbon, I am sending a message to the millions of fans across the world that they shouldn’t discriminate against people living with HIV.”



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