Sri Lanka cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara took time off the pitch to speak to hundreds of youths about the importance of knowing the facts about HIV and AIDS. The event was part of the ICC, UNAIDS and UNICEF’s ‘Think Wise’ campaign for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.
“You need to educate yourself and become more aware of the world around you and HIV and be unafraid and unashamed to speak openly about these subjects with your friends, family and your teachers in school,” said Mr Sangakkara, during the event which was held at his old school, Trinity College, in Kandy.
As part of the Think Wise initiative a youth drama group staged a play to demonstrate the impact of stigma and discrimination for those living with HIV. The drama reinforced the need for more education and life skills especially among adolescents as a means of preventing the spread of HIV.
Kumar, along with other leading international cricketers including Graeme Smith and Virender Sehwag, is a spokesperson for ICC’s Think Wise partnership with UNAIDS and UNICEF promoting HIV prevention. He was joined by team mates Ajantha Mendis and Upul Tharanga who also showed their support for HIV prevention in the country.
Since 2003, UNAIDS has been working with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to address the issue of HIV and AIDS in cricket-playing countries. In 2006 UNICEF, joined this prominent partnership and the programme for 2010-2011 has come together under the ‘Think Wise’ banner to focus on raising HIV awareness and reducing stigma and discrimination.
The Sri Lanka ‘Think Wise’ campaign partnership includes the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka Cricket, UNAIDS, UNICEF, Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka and the Interact Clubs. The 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.
More than 7,000 people worldwide are newly infected by HIV each day and one out of every three of these is a young person aged between 15 and 24 years.