Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat Tuesday launched the Youth Unite For Victory On Aids (YUVA) campaign aimed at creating awareness on HIV/AIDS among the 450 million youths of the country.
The campaign, conceived by the ministry of youth affairs, will be carried out by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in collaboration with other organisations, including the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Bharat Scouts and Guides, National Cadet Corps and Indian Red Cross Society.
"The pace at which AIDS has assumed an epidemic proportion must wake up our policy planners and public health administrators to do some out-of-the-box thinking. If unchecked, it is going to be the most frightening killer in this century," Shekhawat said.
He said there was a need to prevent the killer disease by creating mass awareness.
"Our special focus should be on the 260 million people living below the poverty line, as they suffer from the curse of deprivation, disease and illiteracy and, therefore, could be the soft targets of infection," the vice president added.
India is home to 5.2 million AIDS patients. According to estimates, 57 percent of the HIV infected adults are from rural backgrounds. More shockingly, 35 percent of the reported AIDS cases in the country are in the age group of 15-24.
Quoting a United Nations study, Shekhawat said India's adult HIV prevalence rate would peak at 1.9 percent of the country's population by 2019.
Addressing youths at a function here, Shekhawat said: "The YUVA campaign would justify its name only when you successfully lead the fight to achieve victory in your mission."
Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar said that 99 percent of the Indian population was free from HIV and there was a downward trend in new HIV/AIDS patients. He added that youths and rural societies were now more open about discussing sexual diseases making it easier to prevent infection.