The Cricket World Cup is here and the Caribbean media is using this sporting event to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS. Great stuff, but this brings to mind the question: why is it that there is little to no coverage of HIV/AIDS in the South African sport media in particular? asks Tamar Blieden in JournAIDS

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is using the Cricket World Cup as an opportunity to fight the stigma that overshadows the HIV pandemic and to promote awareness of the disease. “It’s Your Wicket, Protect It! Use A Condom Everytime!” is just one slogan that will be used during the Cricket World Cup.

According to The Nation news, a leading Barbados newspaper:

“The International Cricket Council (ICC) has teamed up with UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS to highlight, during Cricket World Cup 2007, the situation of children and young people living with and affected by HIV.”

With a viewership of 4-million for the opening ceremony alone, it is clear that the HIV message will most certainly be spread to a wide audience during this cricket spectacle, though time will only tell the success of the campaign.

A campaign like this is good and well but it needs to be reported widely by the print and broadcast media in order for the message to be heard.

So far, it seems that the campaign has fairly been actively covered in the Caribbean as well as in some international press. For example, Radio Jamaica, The Jamaica Gleaner, Netnews, Associated Press of Pakistan and the Asian Tribune have all promoted this campaign through coverage. Even some of the American press has covered the campaign – and they don’t even hardly play cricket!

But the South African media hasn’t done the greatest job in helping to promote the campaign – in fact, I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere at all.

Given the relative lack of coverage regarding the cricket HIV/AIDS campaign, one wonders if the local media will go to much effort to promote the South African Football Association’s motto for the 2010 Soccer World Cup “Make sure to experience the cup – fight HIV/AIDS”.

Information about the Soccer World Cup campaign has so far been scanty, not only in the sports pages, but throughout the media. This type of message is essential in a country where about 5-million people are living with HIV.

But then again, the sports media are notoriously bad at addressing issues relating to HIV and AIDS. The fact that sports, specifically boxing and rugby, are contact sports where blood flows, highlights the need for HIV to be addressed in the sports media.

The hero worship status that many sports personalities gain should also be used by the media to sustain HIV/AIDS messages. This is the aim of the ICC during the Cricket World Cup.

At the official launch of this Cricket World Cup campaign on March 6, UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot was quoted as saying:

“Young people today have never known a world without AIDS. Sports stars – such as top cricket players – can act as role models for today’s young generation and reach out to them on AIDS issues.”

We could do with a lesson from the Caribbean media and bring these issues into the sporting beat here in South Africa. – Tamar Blieden