Bourda cricket test for AIDS awareness platform

Stabroek News
May 4, 2000

The Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Programme (NAP) in collaboration with Vic Insanally and his staff at Guyenterprise will use the upcoming Cable and Wireless test match to be played between the West Indies and Pakistan as a platform to highlight AIDS.

The first of the three-test series begins at the Bourda Cricket Ground tomorrow and as a result the ministry along with the secretariat yesterday launched an AIDS Awareness Campaign under the theme 'Don't be Bowled out by AIDS, Bat with a Condom' in the board room of the ministry. Also endorsing this initiative is Cable and Wireless, the Guyana Cricket Board of Control and three young cricketers. The ministry felt given the popularity of cricket, the upcoming test at Bourda would be an excellent opportunity to promote safe sex messages using cricket language. The innovative campaign forms part of the ministry's ongoing awareness effort to address the escalating AIDS situation in Guyana.

Cable and Wireless has made a contribution of over $500,000 by purchasing all of the tickets for the schoolboys' stand at Bourda and handing them over to be used in the campaign. The tickets would be shared out to youths around Guyana by the ministry and the secretariat. Most of the campaign will be done from the schoolboys' stand, but it is hoped that the other stands would also join the campaign. The children who would be sitting in the schoolboy's stand would be given t-shirts, bandannas, wave rags and score cards to promote the messages and at the same time they would be viewing the five-day game free of charge.

In addition, West Indies' and Guyana's fast bowler, Reon King; Ramnaresh Sarwan, who has just been drafted into the West Indies team; and Guyana's fast bowler, Colin Stuart, have agreed to allow their faces and voices to be used on advertisements free of charge. These advertisements would be aired on the television and also on the radio and would be done by Guyenterprise.

Cable and Wireless will also give cash to an AIDS charity for every six scored during the test.

At yesterday's launching, Stuart, who was the only cricketer present, made brief remarks along with Minister of Health Dr Henry Jeffrey.

NAP Manager, Dr Maxine Swain, in her speech said that out of the 33 million people who are infected with the virus, "at least a third are young people aged ten-24 years old. Everyday 7,000 young people worldwide acquire the virus. This means that around 2.6 million new infections a year are among young people. Overall, young people account for at least 50% of all those who become infected after infancy."

Dr Swain pointed out that United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) over the last two years had made young people its focus for the expanded AIDS campaign and noted that while young people were very vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, they could also be the force for stemming the pandemic.

She said that the UNAIDS had selected as its theme for this year, 'Men can make a Difference' and this theme challenges men to recognise their vulnerability to the epidemic and the impact their HIV positive status could have on their partners, children, relatives and society. Dr Swain said that the fact that Cable and Wireless and the Guyana Cricket Board of Control had collaborated with Insanally and his staff and the Ministry of Health/NAP was testimony to their understanding that men could make a difference. She said that it was also encouraging to see the three young cricketers coming forward to encourage youths to stay healthy by adopting healthy lifestyles.

"We at the Ministry of Health/National AIDS Programme Secretariat would like to make a special appeal to cricketers, the spectators and all Guyanese to work towards reducing the spread of HIV by taking on a personal project to keep yourself free from HIV and other STIs [sexually transmitted infections]," Dr Swain said.