Top cricketers show support for global AIDS campaign: Sri Lankan Captain speaks with Barbadian schoolchildren
Leading cricketers including Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Stafanie Taylor have united during the ICC World Twenty20 2010 to show their support for cricket’s global efforts to combat HIV.
A series of community activities have taken place during the tournament as part of the Think Wise partnership, between the ICC, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative, which aims to raise awareness of HIV and reduce stigma and discrimination.
Kumar Sangakkara visited a school in Barbados to deliver an HIV prevention session, the India and South Africa teams both hosted community groups and carried out cricket training sessions and Stafanie Taylor and Stacy-Ann King went to a teenage pregnancy project in St Kitts.
A Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS public service announcement campaign, featuring Taylor alongside other leading Caribbean celebrities, has also been 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 final will wear red ribbons as a show of support for people living with HIV.
Sangakkara spoke engagingly to a group of children and young people on Wednesday about education, life skills and the importance of talking about important issues to friends and family to help improve decision making.
“I think that Think Wise is very important given the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in cricket-playing countries. I can already see this partnership is working around the ICC’s signature tournaments, such as the ICC World Twenty20 and the Cricket World Cup,” said Sangakkara.
“Hopefully more players and umpires will join in with this project in the future so we can continue to spread the word,” he said.
Sangakkara believes his support as a Think Wise champion alongside other leading cricketers is important in engaging young people to think about HIV, encourage them to seek further information on the disease and protect themselves.
“As a cricketer you have to realise you are going to be an icon to lots of aspiring young players and you have to be an example and also go to places not just to tell young people what to do but also to talk to them about life, share ideas and awareness.
“I think young people need to be aware of the disease and they should be encouraged to talk to others without shame. Young people need to have people to talk to about life and that will help them make the correct choices and understand the responsibilities of living a healthy lifestyle,” said Sangakkara.
Graeme Smith, who is also a Think Wise champion, spoke to children in Barbados from several secondary schools that are enrolled in the Caribbean Healthy Lifestyle Project. This project is designed to teach adolescents about the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through sport. It also seeks to instill the value of maintaining a healthy lifestyle among Caribbean youth, while promoting peer leadership skills and social responsibility.
“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,” said Smith.
“By having the chance to meet young people from the region, I have been able to understand the important work that organisations such as UNAIDS and UNICEF, working with local agencies, do in providing young people with education on HIV in the Caribbean.
“Like back home in South Africa, where HIV remains a huge issue for my country, I am aware of the impact the disease has had on the Caribbean. I therefore think it is important that cricketers encourage young people to get the facts about HIV and protect themselves.”
West Indies women’s stars Stafanie Taylor and Stacy-Ann King visited Project Viola in St Kitts which aims to provide services and support to teen mothers in school while contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse common to teen mothers and their children in the long-term. The project provides a number of support services to participants, including HIV prevention.
“It was a great experience to visit the project in St Kitts and see the important work that is done to help young people within the Caribbean develop life skills and protect themselves against HIV,” said Taylor.
“I believe that it is very important that more continues to be done to help young people within the region. Hopefully by being involved in the Think Wise campaign, particularly in the Caribbean, I can encourage young people to get the facts, get tested and protect themselves from HIV.”