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Keeping attitudes positive

© UNICEF / 2008
Savita, an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, supports her friend Pritu as he comes to terms with living a full life with HIV

Delhi: “No one can really imagine the lives we lead. We cannot share our pain with anyone else because no one will understand us. We can only open our hearts up to NGOs and health workers, not with friends or family”.

Bindu found out that she was also HIV positive when her husband tested positive for the virus. Unable to comprehend her predicament, she turned to a local NGO for support. Today she has learnt to live with the virus and has dedicated her life to helping other women cope with HIV/AIDS.

The unfortunate fact is that there are many people like Bindu who are infected but do not know about it, and even if they know,  they don't know how to lead a normal life.

According to the UNFPA, every 12 seconds someone around the world contracts HIV and every 16 seconds someone dies of AIDS. 2.4 million people are infected with the HIV virus in India alone and 33 million around the world, out of which 2 million are children under the age of 15 years. These statistics just remind us all over again that it is essential that we direct all our efforts towards eradicating this deadly virus.

According to the UNFPA, every 12 seconds someone around the world contracts HIV and every 16 seconds someone dies of AIDS. 2.4 million people are infected with the HIV virus in India alone and 33 million around the world, out of which 2 million are children under the age of 15 years. These statistics just remind us all over again that it is essential that we direct all our efforts towards eradicating this deadly virus.

One such effort is UNICEF’s Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai, a Hindi language entertainment-education serial on India’s national TV channel, Doordarshan. The show takes an initiative in order to bring awareness and make significant behaviour change amongst Indian audiences about health, hygiene and development issues, by making use of messages from UNICEF’s Facts For Life book. Be it messages on hand washing, infant and maternal health and survival, early marriage, family planning, child trafficking or awareness of HIV/AIDS, Kyunki… brings viewers face to face with the characters and narratives that they can relate to and get motivated from.

It is true that we are still a long way from eradicating this virus but each effort is a small step towards an HIV-free world. December 1st is marked as the World AIDS Day and organizations and individuals around the world join and enhance their effort to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS. Television has the power to bring out exceptional change and that is the effect that Kyunki… aims to achieve through its dedicated messaging on pertinent issues that concern the health, education and development of modern India.

The recent HIV/AIDS track in the serial was aimed at dispelling myths related to the transmission and effects of HIV/AIDS on individuals, families and communities. The serial follows the lives of characters who get to know about their positive status and shows how it is possible to continue with a fulfilling life even after this.

The challenges during the design of the story include ensuring that it becomes clear to viewers that it is possible to continue a regular life despite being infected by the HIV virus. In fact, the success of the show was established when viewers said that they could see themselves reflected in the lives of these characters.

“The episodes on HIV that I watched in this serial really spoke to me. Whatever is shown in Kyunki… happens in real life. As someone who is HIV positive, I have had very difficult moments in my life and a show like this will see to it that others do not have to suffer like me”, shared an ardent fan of the show from Delhi.

The stigma associated with this disease is a weight too heavy for most of the HIV positive people to carry. It is true that we need a world that is more sensitive, rather than harsh, towards those who are HIV positive and Kyunki…is surely a huge catalyst in behavioural and attitudinal change amongst Indians when it comes to the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Another regular viewer of the show who has also tested positive added that she thinks more and more people should watch Kyunki… so that they can not only protect themselves from the HIV virus but can also help others who are infected without fearing for their own safety.

“I am so happy that a show like this is on television. Kyunki… shows that by talking to or sitting with a person living with HIV, the other person won’t get it. Many people don’t understand this so we are never allowed to live a regular life. I hope that after watching this show, more and more people will realize that we do not have to be ostracized just because we are suffering”, she said.

The stigma associated with this disease is a weight too heavy for most of the HIV positive people to carry. It is true that we need a world that is more sensitive, rather than harsh, towards those who are HIV positive and Kyunki…is surely a huge catalyst in behavioural and attitudinal change amongst Indians when it comes to the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Another regular viewer of Kyunki… added, “When I watch this serial I do feel that this has the power to bring about change that we are looking for. I work with HIV positive women everyday and I myself am infected. This is the kind of programme that can persuade people living with HIV/AIDS to start living their lives bravely and fully”.

Kyunki… Jeena Issi Ka Naam Hai airs on Doordarshan every Monday to Wednesday from 8:30 to 9:00 pm.

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