Sharmila and Ralph pledged their support to the Unite for Children campaign.
Mumbai, 31st January 2007: At the end of a five day mission to rural Mahrastra investigating the impact of HIV and AIDs, Ralph Fiennes, UNICEF UK Ambassador and Sharmila Tagore, UNICEF India Ambassador, called for an end to discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS.
During his five days visit to Maharastra, Mr. Fiennes met with HIV and AIDS affected children and representatives of the People Living with HIV and AIDS Network. He also interacted with the municipal hospital doctors, who have played a significant role in convincing pregnant women and their spouses to undergo a HIV and AIDS test.
Sharing his experience, Mr. Fiennes said, “I spent the past week here in India getting a sense of the reality of HIV and AIDS in people’s lives. Fathers and mothers are dying, leaving children with no support. Stigma and discrimination is ruining the family lives. There is an urgent need for education, information, and increased awareness of HIV and AIDS. The response needs to be now. We cannot afford to become fatigued”.
Sharmila Tagore has for the last three years been a witness to the impact of HIV and AIDS across India and Africa spoke about the need to bridge the two India’s and ensure equality for all those affected
Ms. Tagore said, “HIV and AIDS have redefined the very meaning of childhood many children depriving them of their human rights – of the care, love and affection of their parents. They suffer social isolation, have the agony of being orphaned and abandoned, denied services and education. We need to continuously fight against the stigma and discrimination that this disease carries with it. Victory over not just the disease, but its impact on families, and communities requires teamwork and leadership”.
Ashok Dhokale who has been affected by HIV and AIDS tied a ‘Suraksha Bandhan’ on the wrist of Ralph Fiennes. Taking a promise from him to take up the issues of children in their fight against HIV and AIDS. Ms Tagore again confirmed her commitment to Unite against Aids for children and reminded Mr. Fiennes that he joined Amitabh Bachchan, Rahul Dravid, President Kalam and Sonia Gandhi among those who had taken the Suraksha pledge.
She added that “this is not a pledge that is taken lightly, each person who was tied the Suraksha Bandhan is committed to take action on HIV and AIDS in their sphere of influence. I am delighted that today Ralph Fiennes joins this illustrious group of leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Thanking Mr. Fiennes and Ms. Tagore for their support, Gopi Menon, State Representative, UNICEF Maharastra, said, “It is an honor for us to have Mr. Fiennes and Ms. Tagore on the same platform and help us reach our goals through Unite for Children Unite Against AIDS campaign. We feel the collective effort will surely help us to arrest the spread of HIV and AIDS in India. With such cooperation and commitment from all our ambassadors and supporters, we aim to have an HIV and AIDS free world one day”
Suraksha Bandhan (protection wrist band in the campaign colours) was tied to the wrists of Ralph Fiennes and Sharmila Tagore by Ashok Dhokale which signifies their commitment to fight against HIV and AIDS.
Note for Editors
HIV/AIDS in India
• The first case of HIV/AIDS was detected in Tamil Nadu in 1986. It is estimated that today, there are 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India
• 38 per cent of the infected persons in India are women. This alarming trend is being observed closely as more HIV positive mothers will unknowingly pass the virus on to their children
• About 60,000 children are likely to be born with HIV every year
• India has an estimated 202,000 children living with HIV infection or AIDS disease
• Over 35% of AIDS cases reported are below 25 years of age
• 50% of new infections are between 15 and 24 years old
About Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS
Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS was initiated by UNAIDS and UNICEF and was launched in India on 25 October 2005 by President APJ Abdul Kalam. This campaign calls upon everyone to join to put the care and protection of children, adolescents and young people at the centre of the HIV/AIDS agenda. Specifically, the campaign will work to mobilize resources, foster corporate social responsibility, move toward universal access to antiretroviral treatment, reduce the price of existing treatment and testing. The campaign aims to achieve measurable results in four key areas – 4P’s:
Preventing HIV infection through behavior change communication and access to youth friendly counseling, testing and reproductive health services.
Preventing parent-to-child transmission of HIV (PPTCT) through Antiretroviral therapy prophylaxis
Providing treatment to children with AIDS with paediatric formulations
Providing protection and care services for children affected by the disease.
About Suraksha Bandhan
Suraksha Bandhan (Protection Band) is a red and blue colored band in which red signifies fight against HIV/AIDS and blue signifies children the missing face of fight against HIV/AIDS.