Statewide Media Campaign on HIV/AIDS launched by Gujarat Health Minister, Ashok Bhatt
By Gurinder Gulati
Ahmedabad, 26 October 2006-: “Young people are the assets of our nation and we must protect them from HIV/AIDS”, said Mr. Ashok Bhatt, Health Minister of Gujarat, while launching a UNICEF-supported Statewide Media Campaign to create awareness about prevention of HIV/AIDS. The Health Minister asked the elected representative to get involved in the campaign. “It should be given the same priority as is given to issues like water and roads in the villages”, said Mr. Bhatt. He appreciated UNICEF’s support for this campaign as well as the functioning of PPTCT centres, known as Mamta Clinics all over the state.
Six specially designed HIV/AIDS Raths (Caravans) were flagged off by the Health Minister from the campus of the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. These Raths will cover all 56 Municipal towns and 1,400 villages in the 25 districts of the state over the next three months. A team of folk artistes, who will disseminate the message through street plays, accompanies each Rath. These six caravans have been designed on the lines of the Red Ribbon Express, which was to go to the entire state and create awareness about prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Speaking on the occasion, Commissioner of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Amarjit Singh said, “From today HIV/AIDS programme has become an integral part of the Health Department”. He highlighted the importance of the awareness campaign and the need to educate today’s youth about safe sex patterns. Dr Singh said, “So far we have been talking of ABC only about HIV/AIDS. However, from today I would like to add “D” also which stands for “de-stigmatization” of people living with HIV. He mentioned that today, according to various surveys, only 35-40% of the women in rural areas know about AIDS. Therefore, there was a need to reach these women at the village level.
Dr Yogendra Mathur, State Representative of UNICEF Gujarat Office thanked the Health Minister for launching this statewide campaign and emphasized on the importance of educating the youth in the state about practicing safe sex behaviour. He also appreciated the efforts of the state Government and hoped that this media campaign would be helpful in educating the youth. Representatives of Gujarat State AIDS Control Society, NGOs working in the field of HIV/AIDS and media were also present on the occasion.