Staying positive

At least once a year, Delhi pulls out its red ribbons, symbolising solidarity with HIV+ people and the fight against the epidemic itself. For the other 364 days, though, most of Indias estimated 2.5 million HIV+ people deal with the stigma of their condition without the support of the be-ribboned. So, this year, to mark the 20th World AIDS Day on December 1, the theme is Lead-Empower-Deliver – tying together the need to halt the spread of the disease with the need to provide treatment, care and support to those who suffer from it.

The World AIDS Campaign, Wake Up Pune and Delhis Naz Foundation (India) Trust are organising a series of events this fortnight, with the support of United Nations Population Fund and the Netherlands-based AIDS Fond (AIDS Fund). These events are targeted primarily at the youth because, as Anjali Gopalan, executive director of Naz told us over email, “In India and the world, youth are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Youth leadership is vital because the youth are the ones who will decide how HIV/AIDS is viewed in the future. We need to eliminate stigma and discrimination amongst the youth to ensure that future generations will not face the same discrimination as people living with HIV/AIDS do today.”

In the run up to the event at Lal Chowk in Pragati Maidan, Naz is organising various street plays in places like Basant Lok in Vasant Vihar. On November 30, there is a mela as well as a concert to look forward to in Lal Chowk. Nazs peer educators, who are students from the University of Delhi, will set up a stall at the mela, where they will distribute brochures, provide information on HIV/AIDS and answer questions. There will also be “educational games” at the stall, aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS and sexuality.

Meanwhile, a VJ from MTV will welcome the audience and invite local university bands on to the stage. Their act will be followed by a concert by Delhi band Advaita. Gopalan told us that events like this, with well-known names, ensure that HIV/AIDS “is no longer taboo or hidden away” and help in awareness generation. Besides, when young people assist in organising the event, they feel a greater sense of ownership. “Even though my contribution may be small, I have found immense satisfaction in what I do. This programme could probably be the key to a much bigger change,” said Namita Sivashankaran, a Naz peer educator, about her work with Naz.

Radhika Arora, for Time Out Delhi

The next day, on December 1, Naz will organise an evening of art, music and fashion at the Spanish Ambassadors residence to raise funds for its care home for HIV+ children in Vasant Kunj. In 2001, an HIV+ child, abandoned by his family, became the first resident of the care home. Today, there are 35 children between the ages of two and 15 there. The care homes ability to take in children is, of course, far less than the demand for such a facility and Naz is working towards building a bigger complex by 2010.

Theres more than philanthropy to draw you to this programme, though. Shubha Mudgal will sing, the Midival Punditz will perform, as will East India Company and DJ Jayant. Products specially designed by big fashion names like Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Arora and Rajesh Pratap Singh will also be available. You can also bid for Sachin Tendulkars autographed cricket bat. Its all for a good cause, and it will probably be great fun as well.

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