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CRICKETERS UNITE BEHIND UN INITIATIVE TO SUPPORT PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS

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30 November - International cricketers will show their support this week for a United Nations-backed initiative supporting people living with HIV and AIDS by wearing red ribbons on their playing shirts during matches.

The effort comes as the UN celebrate World AIDS Day (1 December) and is part of the Think Wise initiative, a partnership between the International Cricket Council, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Media AIDS Initiative that has been running since 2003.

“The red ribbon that we wear symbolises our support for the cause to help those living with HIV and AIDS to live a full and productive life in society without giving up hope,” said Sri Lanka's cricket captain and Think Wise Champion, Kumar Sangakkara.

“It is a disease that we should fight by understanding how it spreads and encouraging people to talk about things like sexuality in their homes,” added Mr. Sangakkara, who will wear a red ribbon along with the rest of his team when Sri Lanka faces the West Indies tomorrow.

Players taking part in other One Day Internationals in Bangladesh and India on Wednesday will also wear red ribbons, while players for England and Australia will wear the ribbons on the first day of the 2nd Ashes Test Match on 3 December.

The Think Wise campaign will continue through the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, under the theme 'Get the Facts, Protect Yourself.' The campaign will encourage young people to be informed, take appropriate action to prevent HIV infection and stand together against stigma and discrimination often facing people living with HIV and AIDS. Players will wear red ribbons during the important matches of the tournament, including the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

South Africa's cricket captain, Graeme Smith, who is also a Think Wise Champion, agrees with his Sri Lankan counterpart that it is vital for cricketers to show their support for the initiative and people living with HIV.

“If I can use my position as international cricketer to deliver important social messages, such as encouraging young people to use protection and wear a condom, and reduce the number of new infections then it is something that I am happy to do,” he said.

“Two million people die of AIDS-related deaths each year and nearly three-quarters of them come from sub-Saharan Africa. These are people who watch me play cricket on television, support me in the stadium and this makes it all seem very real to me,” he added.

The positive results of AIDS awareness campaigns such as the Think Wise initiative are beginning to bear fruit and a new UNAIDS report shows the beginnings of a reversal of the spread of HIV.

New HIV infections have fallen by nearly 20 per cent in the last 10 years, AIDS-related deaths are down by nearly 20 per cent in the last five years, and the total number of people living with HIV is stabilising.

The report gives new evidence that investments in HIV prevention are producing significant results in many of the highest burden countries. Despite these gains, an estimated 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV and 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2009, and 33.3 million people were estimated to be living with HIV.