The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams wore red ribbons and an HIV-positive person tossed the coin for today's start of the third and final Test match in the current series between the two nations, part of an initiative by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to elevate awareness about the epidemic.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a message to Rawalpindi, Pakistan, where the Test match is being played, welcoming the two gestures in a region hit hard by AIDS.
According to UNAIDS, more than 12 million people in cricket-playing countries live with HIV - out of an estimated worldwide total of 40 million people. Mr. Annan noted that current rates mean that almost 4,000 people within South Asia will become infected with HIV during the five days in which the Test match is played.
"As cricketers, you can win the hearts of your people. As role models, you can encourage young people to protect themselves from HIV and urge your leaders to pay more attention to the epidemic," the Secretary-General said. "AIDS is a common enemy that both India and Pakistan have to fight together."
The activities were introduced under the "Run Out AIDS" campaign, set up in September last year by UNAIDS and the International Cricket Council. It is the first such initiative between UNAIDS and an international sports organization.
Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said the action of the cricketers - the red ribbon is a worldwide symbol for the fight against AIDS - helps "to break down the walls of stigma and discrimination."