Pakistan cricket team talks about HIV prevention
11 September 2007
Bats flashing. Balls flying. The three young boys, their fingers intertwined in the links
of the wire-mesh fence, watched mesmerized as some of their cricket idols trained on a pitch just outside of Johannesburg in South Africa.
The Pakistan cricket team had invited the youngsters from loveLife – the national HIV prevention programme for young people in South Africa – to their training session in support of the International Cricket Council’s partnership with UNAIDS and UNICEF to bring attention to the situation of children and young people living with or affected by HIV.
The Pakistan cricket team is among 12 world teams currently gathered in South Africa to play in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 2007, which is being held at various locations throughout the country from 11 to 24 September.
Coming off the pitch after their practice session, the cricketers took time to sign commemorative bats, take photos – and talk to the young boys about the importance of HIV prevention.
“Be safe. Be strong. Love life!” said Shoaib Akhtar, arguably the fastest cricket bowler in the world and a clear favourite of the young fans.
“AIDS is a challenge for all countries in the world, and especially for cricket-playing countries, which are among the most affected by HIV,” added Kamran Akmal. As the AIDS Ambassador for the Pakistani team, Kamran devotes much of his time to HIV-related activities in his home country, spreading the ‘Play safe’ message. “It must be our common goal to defeat HIV.”
Some 40 million people in the world are infected with HIV – nearly 15 million of them living in cricket-playing countries.
Pakistani captain Shoaib Malik was the first player to arrive for the training session and the last to leave – a reflection of his responsibility as team leader. “Being the captain of the team is a difficult job. It means giving 110 percent. But strong leadership is important to the performance of any team. It is also important that we show leadership as role models for young people through the world and we are proud to be part of the ICC partnership with UNAIDS and UNICEF.”
Pakistan stars and other top players, including South African captain Graeme Smith, Kuman Sangakkara of Sri Lanka and India’s Yuvraj Singh will feature in public service announcements for the ‘Unite for Children, United against AIDS’ global campaign highlighting how HIV impacts on the lives of young people. These will be made available to broadcasters in 105 countries across the world as well as being watched by fans on the big screens at the 27 matches during the tournament.
Read more on the ICC Twenty20 World Championships
Read more on Unite for Children: Unite against AIDS