Sehwag made his plea after visiting the Haji Sir Ismail Sait Ghosha hospital in Bengaluru on Thursday where he met people whose lives have been affected by HIV.
“It was a memorable experience to have the chance of visiting a hospital in Bengaluru and meet HIV positive mothers who have been able to give birth to children who are HIV negative. I also met a few children who were HIV positive, but I was very happy to see them lead a healthy and a very normal life like any other child.
“New HIV infections in children can be prevented or eliminated if every pregnant woman goes for testing to the testing centers. I urge all families, husbands, mothers in law and others members of the family to encourage the pregnant women to go for testing. This can go a long way in saving the lives of women and children.
“I also would like to congratulate the PPTCT program, especially the counselors and technicians who are playing such an important role in preventing HIV infections in children. They talk to pregnant women and give them the right guidance, thereby motivating and encouraging mothers to go for testing and adopt the right treatment.”
Sehwag is one of a number of leading players supporting the Think Wise campaign, a partnership between the ICC, UNAIDS and UNICEF, at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, and he believes cricketers are in a position to make a difference on HIV awareness.
Along with Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, he also stars in a public service announcement, available at the tournament, which encourages young people to ‘get the facts, protect yourself’.
“I think that too many people stigmatise those people living with HIV but they are no different from anybody else and we need to eliminate discrimination against those living with the disease from society. There also needs to be more awareness of what it means to be living with HIV,” added Sehwag.
“As cricketers, particularly in a country like India, we are in a position to help influence attitudes and behaviour and by being involved in the Think Wise campaign hopefully I can play my part in this.
“Wearing a red ribbon on our playing shirts, as we do at all ICC events, is a fantastic way to show our support for people living with HIV and I am looking forward to wearing the ribbon on my shirt in the latter stages of this event.”
The Think Wise campaign encourages young people to be informed, take appropriate action to prevent HIV infection and stand together against the stigma and discrimination often facing people living with HIV. Although UNAIDS announced that new HIV infections had fallen by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2009, more than 7,000 people were infected each day in 2009 and one out of every three of these was a young person aged between 15 and 24 years.
Players will have a series of interactions with local community groups supported by UNAIDS and UNICEF throughout the three host countries, teams will wear red ribbons on their shirts in key matches during the competition (in all quarter-finals, semi-finals and final) as a show of support for people living with HIV and HIV prevention messages will be promoted at venues on all match days, including during the national anthem ceremonies.
Young adults taking part in the ICC Cricket World Cup schools programme in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have already received HIV education sessions as part of the Think Wise programme.