DHAKA, 11: A big surprise awaited the service-seekers of the drop-in centre for injecting drug users (IDUs) in Nayabazar area of the old part of the Dhaka city as international and national cricket players visited the centre on Sunday January 11 to promote HIV/AIDS prevention among young people. The centre is run by the NGO CARE Bangladesh and has been supported by UNICEF as part of its project for HIV and AIDS prevention from 2004 to 2008.
Four cricketers from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh came together to meet those attending the centre – including children and adolescents. They delivered a message of friendship and social acceptance as drug users and HIV positive people are neglected and ostracized by the society. Among the players were UNICEF Bangladesh Goodwill Ambassador Mohammed Ashraful and Sakib Al Hasan from the Bangladesh team. The Zimbabwean squad was represented by Raymond Price and Vusimuzi Sibanda. International Cricket General Manager, David Richardson and the Sri Lankan team manager also took part in the visit.
Being there and showing their solidarity with the drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS is part of a global effort that the cricketers have been batting for – promoting the power of information so young people and others at risk can arm themselves against the HIV virus. Although Bangladesh is still considered as a low prevalence country for HIV/AIDS with less than 1% prevalence rate, it is estimated that 6.4% of drugs users are infected by HIV/AIDS in the capital city. Prevention efforts are crucial to avoid the spread of the epidemic among these vulnerable groups, especially drug users, sex workers and young people in general. The cricketers also advocated for more efforts in the drive against HIV/AIDS so that HIV positive people can access proper services.
The visit was organized by UNICEF in close collaboration with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Bangladesh Cricket Board under the partnership between UNICEF and the ICC for the “Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS” campaign. Under its HIV and AIDS prevention project in Bangladesh, UNICEF provided services to more than 100,000 people through 146 drop-in-centres in 44 districts in 2008 alone.
Raymond Price from Zimbabwe team, said the international cricket fraternity was committed to fight HIV/AIDS. “Unfortunately too many young people put their life at risk and do not care about HIV”, he commented. Imploring the drug users, among whom many are adolescents and children, to gradually give up their risky behavior, Mohammed Ashraful, captain of the Bangladesh team, said: “Life is much like cricket. To save the wicket, every batsman needs to negotiate each ball carefully. Likewise, cautious steps can save a life.” The visiting cricketers especially cautioned them against sharing syringes while drug-taking, which is one of the major causes of HIV transmission.
"The ICC's partnership with UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Media AIDS Initiative has for the past five years raised awareness and reduced stigma around HIV/AIDS”, said David Richardson, ICC General Manager -Cricket. “By using high profile cricketers to deliver important messages, our work on HIV/AIDS tries to create awareness and to stop new infections and also encourages young people to live a healthy lifestyle. The ICC’s centenary celebrations provide us with an additional opportunity to deliver these messages across our 104 member countries.” Cricket is a hugely popular sport in many developing countries that are affected by HIV/AIDS and where children are vulnerable to many diseases.
The partnership between ICC, UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Media AIDS Initiative has contributed to the ‘Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS’ campaign. This global campaign launched in 2005 is aiming at drawing more attention to the plight of children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS. It promotes the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission; the access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV positive children; the prevention of infections among adolescents and young people and an enhanced support for children who are orphaned and left vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.For more information, please contact:
1 Christine Jaulmes, Chief, Communication and Information Section. UNICEF, Bangladesh, Tel: +880 2 9336701-10, Ext 209, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Rabeed Imam, Acting Media and Communications Manager, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB): Cell phone: +880 171 3046531; E-mail: email@example.com