Cricketers promote HIV awareness during ICC World Twenty20

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Cricketers promote HIV awareness during ICC World Twenty20

07 May 2010

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High-profile cricketers including Graeme Smith, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Stafanie Taylor team took time out from the Twenty20 World Cup being held at Barbados to help support cricket’s global response to HIV.

A series of community activities have been organized during the tournament by the Think Wise partnership. While Sri Lanka’s captain Sangakkara visited a school in Barbados to deliver an HIV prevention session, the Indian team hosted community groups and carried out cricket training sessions.

The South African squad invited a group of children aged 12-15 to visit a training session followed by a 15-minute question and answer session with skipper Smith. The children then showcased their cricketing skills to Rob Walter, the South Africa fitness trainer.

Stafanie Taylor and Stacy-Ann King, both of the West Indies women's cricket team, visited Project Viola in St Kitts which aims to provide services and support to teen mothers in school.

Think Wise, a partnership programme between UNAIDS, the International Cricket Council, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative, was established to use the power of cricket to help tackle key issues around AIDS and encourage informed decision making by children and young adults.

The advocacy work carried out by the partnership and leading international cricketers delivers key information about HIV through public service announcements, event publications and online at international, regional and national levels. The partnership also provides information resources to young people and volunteers, coaches, as well as commentators and broadcasters about the AIDS epidemic.

Talking about the campaign, Graeme Smith said, “As a Think Wise Champion, I believe that it is very important to use my profile to encourage young people to protect themselves from HIV.

“By having the chance to meet young people from the region, I have been able to understand the important work that organizations such as UNAIDS and UNICEF, working with local agencies, do in providing young people with education on HIV in the Caribbean,” he added.

UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Tom Olsen, added: “We are extremely proud of this partnership and value it highly. We talk a lot of sports for development and know the value of using sports to effect positive behavioural change."

Sri Lankan skipper Sangakkara said, “Hopefully more players and umpires will join in with this project in the future so we can continue to spread the word.”

A Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS public service announcement campaign, featuring Taylor alongside other leading Caribbean celebrities, is also being played on the big screen at matches and by CBMP broadcasters across the region.

Tickets have been donated to local community groups who run HIV prevention programmes, umpires are wearing Think Wise logos on their shirts and players in the semi-finals and the final on May 16 will wear red ribbons as a show of support for people living with HIV.

The partnership between UNAIDS and ICC began in September 2003 when they first teamed up to bring messages of HIV prevention to young people across cricket playing nations. In 2006 UNICEF also joined the partnership which now also supports the “Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS” campaign.