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Cricket stars bat in UN campaign to combat AIDS
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Cricket stars bat in UN campaign to combat AIDS

India Blooms News Service

New York, Jan 26 (IBNS): Opponents on the field of play, Indian cricket opener Virender Sehwag and Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara are batting together against a common enemy in a United Nations-backed campaign to fight HIV/AIDS.

The players feature in a public service announcement, released on Tuesday and available free to all broadcasters across the globe, encouraging young people to “get the facts, protect yourself” as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Think Wise partnership with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to promote HIV prevention.

“The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 provides an opportunity to use our profile as cricketers to deliver important social messages to the hundreds of millions of supporters who will be watching the tournament across the world,” Sehwag said of the latest of a long series of collaborative initiatives between the world of sports and various UN agencies to promote a wide variety of humanitarian goals.

The campaign will encourage 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.

The colourful promos, 30 and 45 seconds in duration, are set to a lively theme tune of “let’s talk” and aim to encourage young people across the globe to discuss HIV prevention. As part of the script, Sangakkara encourages fans to “wait, stick to one partner, or use a condom,” before Sehwag calls on young adults to “get the facts, protect yourself against HIV.”

“It is important that young people around the world have access to the right information to help them make informed decisions and break down stigma and discrimination,” Sangakkara said. “Through this public service announcement, I want to help stop the spread of HIV and encourage young people to get the facts, talk openly, and protect themselves from HIV.”

UN agencies frequently team up with athletes and international sports organizations to get their messages across and raise funds.

UNICEF has joined the European Swimming League in “a race against time” to prevent deaths from unclean water; the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) partnered with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the governing body of women’s tennis, to promote gender equality; and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launched “Cricket Against Hunger” with the England and Wales team to draw attention to the plight of the 400 million chronically hungry children around the world.

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