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Ralph Fiennes & Sharmila Tagore join the fight against AIDS

© UNICEF India/2006
Ralph Fiennes and Sharmila Tagore pledge their support to the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign with Ashok Dhokale, a member of the Positive Speakers Network.
MUMBAI, 31 January 2007 - At the end of a five day mission to rural Mahrastra investigating the impact of HIV and AIDs, Ralph Fiennes, UNICEF UK Ambassador and Sharmila Tagore, UNICEF India Ambassador, called for an end to discrimination against people with  HIV and AIDS.

During his five days visit to Maharastra, Fiennes met with HIV and AIDS affected children and representatives of the People Living with HIV and AIDS Network. He also interacted with the municipal hospital doctors, who have played a significant role in convincing pregnant women and their spouses to undergo a HIV and AIDS test.

Sharing his experience, Fiennes said, “I spent the past week here in India getting a sense of the reality of HIV and AIDS in people’s lives. Fathers and mothers are dying, leaving children with no support. Stigma and discrimination is ruining the family lives. There is an urgent need for education, information, and increased awareness of HIV and AIDS. The response needs to be now. We cannot afford to become fatigued”.

Sharmila Tagore has for the last three years been a witness to the impact of HIV and AIDS across India and Africa, she spoke about the need to bridge the two India’s and ensure equality for all those affected.

Tagore said, “HIV and AIDS have redefined the very meaning of childhood many children depriving them of their human rights – of the care, love and affection of their parents. They suffer social isolation, have the agony of being orphaned and abandoned, denied services and education. We need to continuously fight against the stigma and discrimination that this disease carries with it. Victory over not just the disease, but its impact on families, and communities requires teamwork and leadership”.

Ashok Dhokale who has been affected by HIV and AIDS tied a ‘Suraksha Bandhan’ on the wrist of Ralph Fiennes. Taking a promise from him to take up the issues of children in their fight against HIV and AIDS.  Tagore, again confirmed her commitment to the Unite against Aids, Unite for Children campaign and reminded Fiennes that he joined Amitabh Bachchan, Rahul Dravid, President Kalam and Sonia Gandhi among those who had taken the Suraksha pledge.

She added that, “This is not a pledge that is taken lightly, each person who was tied the Suraksha Bandhan is committed to take action on HIV and AIDS in their sphere of influence. I am delighted that today Ralph Fiennes joins this illustrious group of leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Thanking Fiennes and Tagore for their support, Gopi Menon, State Representative, UNICEF Maharastra, said, “It is an honor for us to have Fiennes and Tagore on the same platform and help us reach our goals through Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign. We feel the collective effort will surely help us to arrest the spread of HIV and AIDS in India. With such cooperation and commitment from all our ambassadors and supporters, we aim to have an HIV and AIDS free world one day”.  


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Geeta Bandi-Phillips, Communications Officer: Tel + 91 1 24690401 / 24691410, Mobile: +91 1 981 810 3787; Email: gbandiphillips@unicef.org




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