Cricket unites for people living with HIV and AIDS on World AIDS Day

Kandy, Sri Lanka – Players and match officials will wear red ribbons in the ODI matches being played on Wednesday between Sri Lanka and West Indies; Bangladesh and Zimbabwe; and India vs New Zealand and, as well as on the opening day of the Ashes Test match between Australia and England on Friday. Further activities are also being held in South Africa.

In addition, Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan will travel to Papua New Guinea this week to help take part in a variety of education and fundraising activities promoting World AIDS Day.

Sri Lanka captain and Think Wise champion Kumar Sangakkara believes it is vital that cricketers show their support for the Think Wise initiative, a joint partnership between the ICC, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative that has been running since 2003. The initiative aims to raise awareness around HIV prevention and eliminate discrimination against people living HIV and AIDS.

“It is very important because many people living with HIV live in cricket-playing countries. It is something that you cannot escape, no matter where we play and the lack of awareness and low sense of risk are some of the factors that contribute to high risk taking, making particularly young people in the 15 to 24 year age group vulnerable to infection,” said Sangakkara.

“This lack of awareness is compounded by the discrimination that those living with HIV and AIDS undergo. It is therefore important to create awareness to stop the spread of the virus while also curbing discrimination and as international cricketers we can help to achieve this objective.

“The red ribbon that we wear symbolises our support for the cause to help those living with HIV and AIDS to live a full and productive life in society without giving up hope. It is a disease that we should fight by understanding how it spreads and encouraging people to talk about things like sexuality in their homes,” added the Sri Lanka captain.

The focus for the Think Wise campaign for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 will be ‘Get the Facts, Protect Yourself’. The campaign will encourage young people to be informed, take appropriate action to prevent HIV infection and stand together against stigma and discrimination often facing people living with HIV and AIDS. Players will also wear red ribbons in important matches at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, including the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.