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India: Young volunteer fights stigma to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS

© UNICEF video
Raguwaran Kandhaswamy, 17, is a volunteer for the Positive Living Centre in Kuttupali, India.

By Raguwaran Kandhaswamy

Raguwaran Kandhaswamy is 17 and lives in a village in India’s Tamil Nadu state. Ten years ago his father died of AIDS. His mother is HIV-positive. Having faced stigma and discrimination as a result, Raguwaran became motivated to help others. That desire to help led him to volunteer at the Positive Living Centre, a UNICEF-sponsored organization. This is his story.

KUTTUPALI, India, 28 October 2005 – “First my father had HIV. He was a lorry driver and he had an extra-marital affair. He contracted HIV/AIDS and died. Two years later my mother was tested and found that she was HIV-positive too.

“Because my parents were positive I wanted a test myself. I went to the clinic and was tested but diagnosed negative.

“I wanted to help other families like mine and that’s when I involved myself with the Positive Living Centre as a volunteer.”

© UNICEF video
Raguwaran spends much of his time meeting with members of the community and talking to them about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and how they can protect themselves.

Raguwaran’s first work as a volunteer was educating community members about proper condom use, and placing condom boxes in the community. This initiative was a success, and helped change the attitudes and behaviour of people in his area. Now he’s using his experience and training to motivate others to seek counselling or to find out their status.

“I work with youth groups and young people, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. I go to their houses and teach them about HIV/AIDS. If a person is suffering from HIV/AIDS his family may not support him and he may be discriminated against in his own community.

“They become frightened of telling anyone and even going to be tested is difficult because they fear the results. If people were given the right counselling they might go.

“The government should start focusing on spreading awareness in schools and colleges. The government should provide treatment for people living with HIV and it should be done quickly.”




October 2005:
Raguwaran Kandhaswamy talks about his reasons for becoming a community AIDS awareness volunteer.

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Raguwaran Kandhaswamy, 17 years old, is driven to fight the AIDS epidemic by the death of his father and the infection of his mother with HIV.

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