Dubai, Nov 30 (IBNS) For the ninth consecutive year, the international cricket community will come together in support of the global fight against HIV and AIDS around World AIDS Day on 1 December as part of the ICC's Think Wise partnership, which has been run in collaboration with UNAIDS and UNICEF since 2003.
Players and officials in the Australia-South Africa, India-England and Bangladesh-West Indies Test matches will wear red ribbons, the global symbol of support for people living with HIV and AIDS, while the grassroots impact of the initiative continues to grow.
In Australia, fellow ICC Think Wise champion and captain of South Africa Graeme Smith said: "As well as providing leadership on the field, as high-profile cricketers, we have an opportunity to make a difference beyond the boundary.
"The ICC has been helping raise awareness and reduce stigma about HIV and AIDS throughout my international career, and I will be joining players from around the world in encouraging people to Think Wise about this important topic on World AIDS Day."
Cricketing support for the Think Wise message extends beyond the top-ranked Test teams and internationally recognised players.
England's star spinner Holly Colvin recently spent two weeks in Kenya working with Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB), a charity and Think Wise delivery partner that uses cricket to deliver HIV and AIDS awareness messages.
During Colvin's trip, a CWB schools' tournament in the Maasai region of Kenya featured a mobile testing centre for the very first time.
Colvin, who was the second highest wicket-taker at the recent ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, says the experience opened her eyes to the impact cricket can have in delivering valuable life lessons, particularly around HIV and AIDS awareness, and empowering girls and young women: "I think one of the major steps forward that CWB is making in schools is to run mixed tournaments. All the teams had to contain four girls and four boys unless it was an all-girls school. It made the boys respect the girls as they were an important part of the team too."
Colvin is now preparing for the ICC Women's World Cup 2013, which will be played in five venues across Mumbai from 31 January to 17 February 2013 and play host to further Think Wise activities.
"The Think Wise campaign has been encouraging governments, civil society and the broader public to get the facts about HIV and AIDS. UNICEF applauds the ICC's ongoing commitment to keeping attention on HIV and AIDS, which is critical in reducing new infections in children," said UNICEF HIV/AIDS Chief Craig McClure.
Steve Kraus, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific agreed, saying: "Through the Think Wise campaign, the ICC and the wider cricket community have helped people get facts about HIV and AIDS for the past nine years."
"The use of cricket as a force for social change this World AIDS Day will help keep this important topic in the public eye, raise awareness and reduce stigma and discrimination around HIV and AIDS in Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean and help us achieve our target of ´Getting to Zero´ - zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015."
The weekly half-hour programme, ICC Cricket 360, will also support the Think Wise message for World AIDS Day.
In the episode to air from 7 December, the show will profile CWB's work in Rwanda, as well as spotlight the efforts of international players throughout the cricketing year to support the Think Wise campaign. Check your local TV listings to find out how you can watch the programme.
As part of last year's World AIDS Day activities, the Maasai Cricket Warriors helped organise a Think Wise schools' tournament in Kenya.
Building on the success of the event, a documentary following the team's work to promote AIDS awareness and women's rights is currently being filmed, for release in 2013.