PATNA, Bihar, India, 2 December 2009 – To mark the World AIDS Day on 2 December 2009, a huge rally of National Service Scheme volunteers carrying placards with slogans on the prevention of HIV/AIDS took place in Patna, the capital city of the State of Bihar.
The volunteers from the Patna Women’s College wearing red ribbon walked four kilometres along Bailey Road and Frazer Road before assembling at the Shri Krishna Memorial Hall, where they were addressed by the Health Minister of the Government of Bihar.
The programme was organised by the Bihar State AIDS Control Society (BSACS) with support from UNICEF and many civil society organisations.
Inaugurating the function at SK Memorial Hall, the Health Minister, Mr. Nand Kishore Yadav said the stigma attached to HIV positive people was proving to be a major obstacle in the government’s effort to prevent the spread of HIV.
“Whilst scientific understanding of HIV, and how to treat it, has developed rapidly over the last two decades, social attitudes are changing very slowly. Unless we feel comfortable in interfacing with People Living with HIV (PLHIV), we cannot solve their problems,” said Mr. Yadav.
Mr. Yadav added that the need of the hour was to create positive environment wherein people living with HIV and the general public can interact and mingle without apprehension or fear.
“People hesitate to tell their family, neighbours or employers about their HIV status for fear of being ostracised or losing their job,” said the Minister.
The minister added that the Government of Bihar is already working on numerous measures to contain the spread of the virus in the general population of the state, including setting up modern blood banks in every district of Bihar.
Earlier in the day, volunteers from the Bihar State Aids Control Society began World AIDS Day activities by pinning red ribbons on people coming for their morning walk at the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park.
Senior officials from the Department of Health, along with representatives of NGOs and BSACS, pinned a red ribbon on Mr. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, later in the afternoon.
The event was also addressed by the Principal Secretary, Health, Mr. CK Mishra, and Project Director, BSACS, Ravi Parmar.
Cricket matches between HIV positive people and college students were organised at various district head quarters of the state. The matches were well attended and widely appreciated.
Addressing a function at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir to mark World Aids Day, the Governor of Bihar, Shri Debanand Konwar, stressed the need to make people, particularly those in rural areas, aware about HIV and AIDS.
“HIV prejudice is often the result of ignorance about how HIV is passed on and the fear of becoming infected. Encouraging those around us to talk about HIV and find out the facts can help us overcome this,” said the Governor.
The Governor stressed the need to carry out a continuous campaign against HIV/AIDS disease at all levels.
The Commissioner of Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC), Mr. K Senthil Kumar, assured the gathered audience that PMC will be providing hoardings free of cost to create awareness on HIV/AIDS.
A number of HIV and AIDS awareness programmes were also held by other government functionaries, NGOs and educational institutes in collaboration with BSACS and UNICEF.
The health unit of East Central Railway organized a seminar which was addressed by the General Manager, Mr. Sanjeev Handa, Public Awareness for Healthful Approach for Living (PAHAL).
Other activities in the state included free testing for HIV/AIDS, and counselling and free condom distribution at several locations in Patna city.