Windies host people living with HIV in the nets

Mohali, India – West Indies skipper Darren Sammy and middle-order batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan and West Indies skipper have called for greater understanding of what it means to be affected by HIV.

The West Indies team took time out from their preparation for Friday’s vital ICC Cricket World Cup match against Ireland to show support for the Think Wise campaign.

Several players signed autographs, while players and members of the Windies management team did fielding drills and interacted with the visitors. The players met 10 adults who are living with HIV at training on Wednesday at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, to understand what it means to be living with the disease and to broaden their understands of the issues, such as stigma and discrimination, facing these people.

Sarwan, an Ambassador for the Think Wise campaign, a partnership between the ICC, UNAIDS and UNICEF, believes society must better understand what it means to be affected by HIV.

“It was interesting to have the opportunity to meet people living with HIV and understand some of the issues that they face on a day-to-day basis,” said Sarwan. “What came very clear to me during the interaction was that people affected by the disease are no different to anybody else and that they must not be discriminated against.”

Sammy hosted an impromptu game of cricket and also spoke to the visitors and listened to them as they explained the challenges their face. Sammy said that he believes that the Think Wise partnership is well placed to impact on attitudes towards HIV.

“The West Indies team, through the Think Wise partnership, have always tried to support HIV awareness. Cricketers are well known for wearing the red ribbons on our playing shirts at matches at ICC events as a show of support for people living with HIV. To be able to meet people living with HIV and understand the discrimination they face in day-to-day life was very moving,” added Sammy.

“Using our profile as international cricketers, hopefully we can ensure that the Think Wise campaign not only eliminates stigma and discrimination against people living from HIV, but also encourages young people to be empowered to protect themselves from HIV.”

The Think Wise campaign encourages young people to be informed, take appropriate action to prevent HIV infection, and stand together against the stigma and discrimination often facing people living with HIV. Although UNAIDS announced that new HIV infections had fallen by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2009, more than 7,000 people were infected each day in 2009 and one out of every three of these was a young person aged between 15 and 24 years.

Players will have a series of interactions with local community groups supported by UNAIDS and UNICEF throughout the three host countries. Teams will wear red ribbons on their shirts in key matches during the competition (in all quarter-finals, semi-finals and final) as a show of support for people living with HIV. In addition, HIV prevention messages will be promoted at venues on all match days, including during the national anthem ceremonies.

Young adults taking part in the ICC Cricket World Cup schools programme in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have already received HIV education sessions as part of the Think Wise programme.

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