Cricket heroes Think Wise about HIV

Cricket heroes Think Wise about HIV

Cricket players from around the world are once again showing their support to young people living with HIV as part of the global Think Wise partnership on HIV.

Throughout the International Cricket Council (ICC) 2014 World Twenty20 (WT20) tournament—which runs in Bangladesh until 6 April—cricketing stars from a variety of international teams are taking part in coaching sessions and site visits. They are meeting with young people living with and affected by HIV, raising awareness of the importance of accessing HIV information and services.

The Think Wise initiative is a long-running partnership between ICC, UNICEF and UNAIDS that uses the power of cricket to reach out to large numbers of people on HIV issues. The partnership, which emphasizes messages on HIV prevention and the need for the elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, has been profiled throughout the 2014 WT20. Players and match officials have worn red ribbons in solidarity with people living with HIV and Think Wise messages are profiled in the stadiums.

As part of the Think Wise activities carried out in Bangladesh, players from the Australia, Bangladesh, West Indies and South Africa teams held special cricket coaching sessions and events for children and young people. As well as practical cricket instruction from the players, the young participants spent additional time with them discussing HIV and life skills issues. Young participant Pranto Sarkar, aged 11, underlined his excitement at having time with the cricketing stars to play with and learn from them. “I just can’t believe that I have played with them, for me it’s a dream come true,” he said.

A special site visit was arranged for members of the Bangladesh women’s international team to the Ashar Alo Society, an organization of people living with HIV. Players met children living with and affected by HIV, who shared their stories about the challenges they face.

Stressing the importance of partnership with the Bangladesh National AIDS Programme, the Bangladesh Cricket Board and the civil society partners that helped to facilitate events, trainings and site visits, the Chief of HIV at UNICEF Bangladesh, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said, “The events in Bangladesh are a demonstration of the effective power of sport in reaching adolescents with HIV prevention information. The uniqueness of the training lies in the integration of HIV messages into cricket training drills, as well as the broad partnership between UNICEF, UNAIDS and ICC, and the national partners.”

Think Wise has inspired many leading cricketers to join efforts to promote HIV prevention and reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination. For the 2014 WT20, Bangladesh international all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan championed Think Wise—speaking about HIV prevention and stigma at a number of public events, starring in a Think Wise public service announcement that was shown in cricket grounds throughout the tournament and taking part in the in-tournament Think Wise activities with his colleagues.

“I feel privileged to be a part of the Think Wise campaign. As a sportsperson I know how far-reaching an impact we can make in addressing key issues around HIV, especially in developing countries like Bangladesh,” said Mr Al Hasan.

Commenting on the importance of the involvement of sports stars in the profiling and dissemination of key HIV and health messages, UNAIDS Country Director for Bangladesh Leo Kenny said, “We are thankful to the WT20 partnership with ICC and UNICEF and its ambassadors like Shakib Al Hasan for using cricket as a vehicle for making HIV everybody’s business.”

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