Courtesy of UNifeed
In some places, living with HIV/AIDS does not only mean a lifetime of difficult treatment, illness, and the possibility of death. It also means being ostracized, ridiculed, and humiliated. Stigmatization of HIV/AIDS patients remains a sadly common phenomenon, especially in regions of the world where little is known about the enigmatic and terrifying killer.
Today, some of the world’s most popular athletes and public figures are working to change that.
An international campaign called “Think Wise,” run by UNICEF, UNAIDS, and the International Cricket Council, organizes events to raise awareness about the effects and dangers of AIDS, and the harm caused in discriminating against those afflicted with the disease. The group abides by a motto: “Get the Facts – Protect Yourself, Think Wise. Don’t Stigmatize”
One high profile athlete supporting the campaign is JP Duminy, a South African cricketer popular in areas like sub Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia where HIV/AIDS patients are known to face stigmatization. He lauded the group’s ability to connect with the their audience.
“Sport plays a major role in building a nation and obviously with these kinds of events – ICC events- being so huge, it can only being a lot of attention to a lot of people and we are certainly grateful to be part of it,” he said. “Hopefully we can create some sort of a difference within our world and our countries.”
One of “Think Wise’s” main goals is to teach HIV/AIDS that they are not alone, and that thousands of other people experience the challenges of living with HIV/AIDS that they do. In fact, they point out, some 2,500 young people contract HIV every day. Reza Hossaini, a UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka, described this task, and how “Think Wise” aims to accomplish it.
“Tens of thousands of young people get the fear of stigma and discrimination; they do not go for testing even though they know that they have had a risky behavior. They do not seek medical help and psychosocial support when they know they are HIV positive and this silence actually helps in silently spreading the virus,” he noted.
“We strongly believe that through the power of cricket, we can motivate and we can encourage the young people to speak out to seek help when they need and increase the public awareness in general.”