Cricket is the national sport in Pakistan as it is in India, but what makes the First Positive Cricket Team stand out from all the other Karachi-based clubs is that its members are all HIV positive.
The team was put together a year ago by the Pakistan Society, an NGO working for the rights of people living with HIV. They played -- and won -- their first match in August, and haven't looked back.
Dr. Saleem Azam, president of the Pakistan Society, told CNN, "Every time they play the players have a boost physically, emotionally and psychologically, and they feel a lot better."
Azam says that there is a considerable stigma in Pakistan surrounding HIV/AIDS and he hopes the team can help combat discrimination towards HIV sufferers.
"People assume the team must be very sick-looking, like walking skeletons, but when they see them playing and winning matches they have to think again," said Azam.
"We've given them a very strong message that having HIV does not mean you must retire from life and become helpless. You can have HIV and live a very happy life if you take your antiretroviral treatment regularly.
When the team won handsomely, leaving their opponents and the fans amazed that HIV-positive players could be so active - one of the team members was asked whether antiretroviral medication was also a form of performance-enhancing drugs.
"The stigma is the worst consequence of this illness, so it will be the greatest service to people with HIV if we are able to help them overcome this stigma. The change is coming, but it's very, very slow."
While changing attitudes takes time, Azam says the team has already built bridges between the players and their estranged families. He told CNN that some players who had been ostracized by their families were now back in contact with them, with one family requesting to travel to matches with the team.
First Positive has already played a match in Hyderabad, about 200 km (125 miles) from Karachi, and next month they will take to the road for two more matches, which will see them spread their message elsewhere in the country.
"This is how the team will be known the country over," said Azam.
"People will come to know more and more about the team, and I hope eventually they will be successful in combating this stigma and discrimination."
Abdul Lateef is captain of the FPCT. He contracted HIV six years ago and told CNN that the team is helping to change others' attitudes towards people with HIV.
"We are reaching the minds of the people," he said.
"Everybody thinks there are things that HIV positive people cannot do. We have shown we can play and we have proved to everybody we can do anything they can do."
We are thankful that the authorities were so cooperative with us, and provided us with the space that was needed for the match without any discriminatory attitude. Rather, their attitude was positive and encouraging," said Azhar Hussain Magsi, a manager at the Pakistan Society.
"More matches are scheduled to take place all over Pakistan in the coming weeks ... We are also having talks with other NGOs in India, and look forward to having an international HIV-positive cricket match.
Having personally witnessed the wonders that anti retro viral therapy can produce in many patients, I cannot think a better way of illustrating the fact that HIV/AIDS is treatable and HIV positive patients are as human as we all are than the site of a 'Positive' cricket team winning a match against the 'negative' team on the cricket field.
An India-Pakistan cricket match between HIV positive players!!!
That will be a great event.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
New figures released by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS estimate the number of new HIV infections have declined each year by about 17% from 2001 to 2008.
The number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15% lower, which is about 400,000 fewer infections in 2008.
In East Asia new HIV infections declined by nearly 25% and in South and South East Asia by 10% in the same time period.
In Eastern Europe, after a dramatic increase in new infections among injecting drug users, the epidemic has leveled off considerably.
However, in some countries there are signs that new HIV infections are rising again.
But for every five people infected, only two start treatment.
The UN report noted about 4 million people were receiving AIDS drugs at the end of 2008, compared with 3 million the previous year. Nonetheless, an additional 5 million people need treatment and are not receiving it.
Number of people living with HIV in 2008
Total 33.4 million [31.1 million–35.8 million]
Adults 31.3 million [29.2 million–33.7 million]
Women 15.7 million [14.2 million–17.2 million]
Children under 15 years 2.1 million [1.2 million–2.9 million]
People newly infected with HIV in 2008
Total 2.7 million [2.4 million–3.0 million]
Adults 2.3 million [2.0 million–2.5 million]
Children under 15 years 430 000 [240 000–610 000]
AIDS-related deaths in 2008
Total 2.0 million [1.7 million–2.4 million]
Adults 1.7 million [1.4 million–2.1 million]
Children under 15 years 280 000 [150 000–410 000]
There are more people living with HIV than ever before as people are living longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy and population growth.
However the number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by over 10% over the past five years as more people gained to access to the life saving treatment.
UNAIDS and WHO estimate that since the availability of effective treatment in 1996, some 2.9 million lives have been saved.
Antiretroviral therapy has also made a significant impact in preventing new infections in children as more HIV- positive mothers gain access to treatment preventing them from transmitting the virus to their children. Around 200 000 new infections among children have been prevented since 2001.
There are 3 million persons in India living with HIV, equivalent to approximately 0.36 percent of the adult population. The revised national estimate reflects the availability of improved data rather than a substantial decrease in actual HIV prevalence in India.
The transmission route is still predominantly sexual (87.4 percent); other routes of transmission by order of proportion includes perinatal (4.7 percent), unsafe blood and blood products (1.7 percent), infected needles and syringes (1.8 percent)
and unspecified and other routes of transmission (4.1 percent)2.
In India also there is a declining trend in new infections in southern states and Maharashtra while the epidemic is yet to level in Northern States.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme of Universal Access and Human Rights, highlights the critical link between universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and respect for human rights in the response to the global AIDS epidemic. Without addressing human rights abuses, many of the populations most vulnerable to or living with HIV will lack access to prevention and treatment services.