Gayle, Ramdin raise awareness of HIV/AIDS

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua -- West Indies captain Chris Gayle and vice captain Denesh Ramdin joined the global effort to bring awareness of HIV/AIDS on Thursday morning in an event organized by the International Cricket Council.

The West Indies duo along with England players Monty Panesar and Alistair Cook took time out of their training ahead of the 2nd Digicel Test Match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, to meet with local children and officials. The project is part of the ICC’s global HIV/AIDS awareness partnership with UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Media AIDS Initiative.

The players gave coaching tips, signed autographs and also posed for photographs with the children. They also signed the ICC’s “Catch the Spirit” flag, which is travelling the globe during the ICC’s Centenary year in 2009.

“The ICC’s work around HIV/AIDS awareness is something which a number of cricketers have been involved in and I’m happy to be a part of this,” said the 23-year-old Ramdin. “It is important that we play our role where we can to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to reduce the stigma associated with it.”

The meetings were organized by the 3H Network, a local NGO which works to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and to address the plight of persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Antigua and Barbuda.

ICC’s Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat said: “Cricket is a hugely popular sport in many developing countries that are affected by HIV/AIDS and where children are especially vulnerable to it. We hope that by using high profile cricketers to deliver important messages on HIV/AIDS we can create awareness to stop new infections and also encourage young people to live a healthy lifestyle.  The ICC’s centenary celebrations provide us with an excellent opportunity to deliver these messages across our 104 member countries.”