Maha small town creating AIDS awareness

Kolhapur: A small town near here has set an example by resolving not to discriminate against persons infected by HIV and initiated several programmes to create awareness about the dreaded disease. The `gram sabha` of Kodoli town near here passed an unanimous resolution on January 26 this year to prevent discrimination of the HIV-infected persons in the town. There are 32 persons in the town who are infected by HIV.

It was only the first town in the country to have passed such a resolution. A similar type of resolution was first passed by a village in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu, according to local officials. The locals here were prompted to pass such a resolution after an incident in Longhe village in Gaganbawada Taluka came to light in 2009, where an Anganwadi worker infected by HIV faced extreme stigma and discrimination.

The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), a charitable trust working in the field for long, has played a key role in bringing all concerned stakeholders in the town together on a common platform. "If you don`t have a supportive environment, the people will not come out. The disease will get hidden and the communities most in need of help, service, care, support, treatment will prefer to die quietly," Director, CFAR, Akhila said.

The awareness drive about HIV is carried out by Anganwadi workers and Ganeshotsav mandals. Hoardings and banners are also put up to reach out to the villagers. The first-year students of a local college here pursuing their Master`s course in Social Works have also come forward in this awareness campaign. The students working under Vidhyarthi Karyakarta Samuha (Students Volunteer Group) have also been educating and sensitising the youth on the issue and providing voluntary support to District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit here.