Feature story

Bangladesh gives the 2011 Cricket World Cup an HIV awareness spin

03 March 2011

Participants of the ‘Mini Cricket World Cup’ schools tournament are presented with awards in Bangladesh

As the overs are bowled, the wickets fall and the crowds go crazy in the 2011 Cricket World Cup, host-country Bangladesh is giving the tournament an HIV spin. Through the Think Wise campaign the tournament is raising awareness among young people on HIV prevention and reducing stigma.

The Think Wise campaign, led by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in partnership with UNAIDS and UNICEF, harnesses the power of cricket to prevent HIV. Together with co- host countries—India and Sri Lanka—Bangladesh is organizing a number of “Think Wise” activities throughout the World Cup tournament that runs from 19 February – 2 April.

One such activity was the Schools Programme event where the World Cup was used as a platform to promote the sport, as well as to share information on HIV. Sixty of the country’s schools participated in the orientation which included the lively presence of “Stumpy the elephant”, the official mascot of the ICC event.

“I really appreciate this initiative! We don’t get to know this information about HIV usually and my perception about AIDS has changed,” said one of the young participants. A selection of the schools then took part in a ‘mini world cup’ cricket tournament, where HIV messages were shared with players and supporters through video, information and education materials in English and Bangla. “I’m now educated about HIV by coming here! It’s a great initiative for young people,” said one of the young men visiting the special UNAIDS booth.

Through the Think Wise campaign we have established important relationships with the Bangladesh Cricket Board, business partners, the media and we have sparked the interest and passion of young people

Salil Panakadan, UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Bangladesh

The Bangladesh campaign received a high-profile boost from an announcement of the country’s team captain Sakib Al Hasan. “As Think Wise Champion, I’m happy to use my current popularity to raise awareness on AIDS,” said Mr Hasan at a press conference announcing his role. “We [cricketers] want to leave behind a legacy of social awareness of AIDS so young people will get to know more about HIV.”

“The involvement of cricketing heroes helps raise the profile among young people—and all cricketing fans,” said UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Bangladesh, Salil Panakadan. “Through the Think Wise campaign we have established important relationships with the Bangladesh Cricket Board, business partners, the media and we have sparked the interest and passion of young people. This gives us a tremendous opportunity to build on even after the last tournament over is bowled,” Dr Panakadan added.

A host of additional activities will take place in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka as the tournament continues including site visits and interaction between star players and key affected communities. Cricket teams will wear red ribbons on their shirts in key matches and HIV prevention messages will be promoted at venues on all match days.