by Tanya Thomas on  December 3, 2008 at 10:48 AM AIDS/HIV News
 World AIDS Day Benefits From Some “Power Play”
What do the following "Who's Who" of the cricketing world have in common? - Graeme Smith (South Africa), Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), Nathan Bracken (Australia) and Isa Guha (Brit Indian woman cricketer). You guessed it - they all support the HIV-AIDS cause. Cricket's star power on Monday (on the occasion of World AIDS Day) pushed for continued support to victims and emphasized on ICC's role in raising awareness of this issue.

World AIDS Day is marked annually on 1 December and this year's theme is leadership. And on that theme those top players want cricket to show how sport can be used for social good in the fight against HIV.

Graeme Smith, an active supporter of cricket's partnership with various agencies including UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS, was quoted by an ICC press release as saying: "As South African cricket captain, I feel a responsibility to raise awareness to people not only in my country, but across the cricketing world, of how they can protect themselves against HIV infection.

"Whether it is delivering messages to young people through public service announcements or when I meet individuals at community projects, I want to make a difference to a social problem which has had such devastating effects in my country."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been working on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention for the past five years and has seen a variety of activities delivered at major ICC events, including the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 and the ICC World Twenty20 2007.

Sri Lanka vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara said: "The ICC has played an important role in the first five years of its partnership with UNAIDS to raise awareness and reduce stigma around HIV.

"But I think that by working with partners such as UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative and using the high profile support of some of the game's leading players we can achieve even more in the future.

"With the eyes of the sporting world on cricket in 2009, with events such as the ICC World Twenty20 2009 and the ICC Champions Trophy 2009, as well as important bilateral series, there has never been a better time for cricket to use its profile to deliver messages on social issues like HIV/AIDS.

"If the game can unite administrators, players, broadcasters and sponsors on HIV/AIDS we can all work together to achieve excellent results," he added.

One of the most visible signs of support for people living with HIV/AIDS has been the wearing of red ribbons by international players at major international matches at ICC events or key bilateral series.

Nathan Bracken, who visited projects in South Africa and the West Indies in the past 18 months, and who has been ranked the number one bowler in the Reliance Mobile ICC ODI Player Rankings during the past year said: "As a professional cricketer, we are in a position where people across the world are fascinated by everything that we say.

"If we can use our high profile position in society to deliver messages to vulnerable people, who may not have had educational opportunities available to them, then that is a positive thing to do and something we can do even more of in the future."

England women's bowler Isa Guha, currently ranked number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Women's ODI Rankings, went with team-mates to an HIV drop-in centre for women in November in Bangalore, India, and she admitted it was a moving experience.

Guha said: "Seeing for myself the challenges that people living with HIV face in their daily lives really brought home the importance of using our profile to make a difference in reducing stigma around the disease.

"As the profile of women's cricket grows, hopefully we can also use our increased popularity to have a positive impact on the lives of women across the world."

The ICC's HIV/AIDS partnership with UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Global Media AIDS Initiative will be a focal part of the ICC's centenary celebrations in 2009.

Source: ANI

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