Windies join Thinkwise outreach
Kandy, Sri Lanka – Members of the West Indies team joined other cricket stars who united in a call for young fans to “get the facts” about HIV prevention and to help eliminate AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, through a United Nations and International Cricket Council HIV awareness raising campaign running alongside the ICC World 20 (WT20) 2012 in Sri Lanka.
Rallying support for the campaign known as “Think Wise”— an initiative of the ICC, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — West Indies players and coaching staff interacted with young cricketers and their families at the Colts Cricket Club. The cricketers were accompanied by officials from UNAIDS, UNICEF and ICC.
“We are really happy to spend these special moments with the people of Sri Lanka - many of whom are our fans. It is always great to interact with people, especially those who love the great game of cricket, and share of knowledge as well as learn from them,” said Windies leg-spinner Samuel Badree, who is a schoolteacher in Trinidad.
“The message was about the prevention of the spread of HIV and also how to eradicate stigma. We urge everyone in the Caribbean and around the world to know the facts be aware.”
Steven Kraus, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific said: “We are all striving for the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Cricket and cricketing stars have the power to unite and reach beyond national boundaries, driving efforts towards ‘getting to zero’ and ending AIDS.”
Over 40 percent of the new HIV infections globally are being reported among 15 to 24-year olds. This means every day another 3,000 young people are infected with the virus. Such statistics coupled with the reality that stigma against people living with HIV and people from key risk communities is still rife clearly indicates that improving HIV prevention efforts among young people and ending discrimination are critical for moving towards global visions of an AIDS free generation.
“Stig ma and discrimination undermine our vision of AIDS-free generation. This can be realized only if we all respect the rights of those living with or affected by HIV and AIDS,” said Rachel Odede, HIV Advisor in the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia.
For almost a decade, and with the help of Think Wise Champions including Virender Sehwag (India), Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies), the ICC/UNAIDS/UNICEF Think Wise campaign has used the power of cricket to help address key issues around AIDS, particularly for young people across the major cricket playing countries. Isa Guha, Stafanie Taylor, Nathan Bracken, Graeme Smith, Darren Sammy, Denesh Ramdin, and Shakib-Al-Hasan are among those that have championed the cause by lending their faces and voices to various HIV-prevention projects around the world.
Underlining his support for the Think Wise campaign during the WT20 tournament, Indian star batsman and Think Wise Champion Virender Sehwag said: “Through cricket we can reach millions of people and the message is clear: Let’s talk more about HIV, let’s get informed. We know that stigma kills. Let’s “Think Wise”; don’t stigmatize.”
The match officials at the WT20 are all sporting the Think Wise message on their on-field clothing.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said: “The profile and reach of the ICC World T20 gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and reduce stigma about HIV and AIDS and, along with the players, we are delighted to help this cause.”
For the duration of the ICC World T20, a public service announcement featuring Sangakkara and Sehwag will be screened at all tournament matches. Players from the teams taking part in the men’s and women’s semi-finals will wear red ribbons as a sign of solidarity for people living with HIV and umpires and referees will also sport the Think Wise logo on their shirt sleeves.