By Augustine Veliath
Indore, 14 April, 2006: Rahul Dravid and Suresh Raina of the Indian Cricket team took time off the field to meet with and appeal to the young people of India to join the campaign on children with HIV/AIDS. “AIDS,” the Indian Captain said, “is redefining the very meaning of childhood for millions, depriving children of many of their human rights – of the care, love and affection of their parents. But most of all, those children are missing you and me, because you and I do not speak up for them, or take up their cause. Let us unite for children and let us unite against AIDS.”
Rahul and his team mates have, on several occasions, taken time off their busy schedule to meet with children affected by HIV/AIDS. While in Indore for the last of the one-day matches, they decided to spend time with young people of Madhya Pradesh and remind them of their social responsibility towards HIV/AIDS affected children and personal responsibility to themselves.
“We need to continuously fight against the stigma and discrimination that this disease carries with it,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia.
In Indore for the last one-day international match against England, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the M.P. Cricket Board joined the cricketers. Dravid and Mr. Scindia spent time with a large gathering of young people, telling them about UNICEF’s “Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign. They tied the “Suraksha Bandhan” on many young campaigners endorsing their support to the campaign. Scindia also signed a pledge to support the campaign.
“We need to continuously fight against the stigma and discrimination that this disease carries with it,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia. “Victory over not just the disease, but its impact on families, and communities requires teamwork and leadership.” he added.
“Beginning with the family and community, to social workers, politicians, religious leaders, Bollywood stars, and media professionals, all of us need to fight against the spread of this disease. Children are the future of this country and we need to do everything in our power to protect them from this disease and its impact on their lives,” said Rahul Dravid.
Convened by UNICEF with UNAIDS, and involving partners from every sector of the international community, “Unite for Children: Unite against AIDS” is intended to redirect policymaking, investment and research towards children affected by the pandemic.
The campaign was launched in India by President APJ Abdul Kalam on 25 October, 2005, and simultaneously in New York by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, UNAIDS chief Peter Piot, and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.
India has 5.134 million out of the estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.The campaign calls for the young people of Madhya Pradesh and the rest of India to become alive to the cause of children affected by HIV/AIDS, to alert society to the reality that HIV/AIDS is robbing tens of millions of children of their childhood and prepare a platform for urgent and sustained programmes, advocacy and mobilizing resources to limit the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and help halt the spread of the disease.
According to the latest UNAIDS epidemic update, India has 5.134 million out of the estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide. A previous study also concludes that approximately 220,000 of the infected in India are children. In fact, the incidence of parent-to-child transmission of HIV- accounting for the vast majority of infections among children - jumped from 2.7% to 3.5% in just one year. Women account for a growing proportion of new infections- 38% in 2004. Furthermore almost half of all new infections are among young people between ages 15 and 24, with young women most likely to become infected.
The “Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS” campaign aims to achieve measurable results in four key areas: preventing parent-to-child transmission of HIV; providing paediatric treatment to HIV-positive children; preventing HIV infection among young people; and providing treatment, care and support for children affected by the disease.
Ms. Selina Singh, Project Director, Madhya Pradhesh State AIDS Control Society, Mr. Tapas Datta UNICEF State Representative, Madhya Pradesh, and Civil Society leaders from Madhya Pradesh were also present.