Madhya Pradesh has come up with the novel idea of using air waves to propagate AIDS awareness more effectively at little or no cost.
The concept, pioneered by the Madhya Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (MPSACS) about a month ago, includes several programmes aired on the radio dealing exclusively with AIDS-related issues.
"Using radio for propagating the message about AIDS and its prevention has two advantages. Firstly, no other media can match the reach of radio, particularly in rural areas. Secondly, the cost is next to nil. So by spending little or no money, you reach people in a more effective manner," said an MPSACS official.
Anil Gulati, the UNICEF communication officer, said: "It is a mix of education along with entertainment which helps bring about a positive change. And radio, with 14 All India Radio (AIR) stations, is more useful than any other media in spreading messages. In rural base radio is still the most popular entertainment, particularly among the youth."
Gulati is also a technical expert in one of the programmes on HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF provides physical and material support in organising programmes aimed at arresting the HIV virus, which is spreading at an alarming rate among the young.
"Zara Sochiye" is one such programme aired every Wednesday. It provides general information on HIV/AIDS apart from playing popular songs.
"An expert on the subject also talks on the issue," Shradha Bose, the deputy director of MPSACS, told IANS.
"The population in the age group of 21-30 years is registering a sharp rise in AIDS cases and will soon overtake the number of those affected in the age group of 31-40 years. However, those in early 20s are becoming most susceptible," the latest MPSACS report said.
Bose added: "Of the total 1,701 AIDS patients in Madhya Pradesh, 38 percent of AIDS affected people belong to the 21-30 age group - only one percent less than in the 31-40 age group."
Another half hour programme "Hello Zindagi" is aired Thursdays from AIR FM stations in Jabalpur, Indore and Bhopal. HIV/AIDS workers and patients share their experiences on the show.
Bose said another programme, `Baat Pate Ki', was also aired Thursdays. It was a live phone-in programme. "Anyone in the state can call up and ask their queries. A doctor in the studio answers their questions.
"Since audience feedback is an important aspect of this programme, we pick up issues on the basis of the 400 or so letters we get on an average every week."
The state falls in the low prevalence category for HIV/AIDS but it could be on the verge of entering the moderate category, fear NGOs involved in AIDS awareness campaigns.
While states with less than one percent of the population inflicted with the disease are said to be "low prevalence", the moderate category is pegged at 23 percent.
According to the MPSACS report, three-fourths of HIV/AIDS patients reportedly contract the disease from unsafe sex and 72 percent of these are males.
While 205 people tested HIV positive in 2004, the figure rose to 359 in 2005 - the highest since 1988 when the first AIDS patient was reported in the state.
India has 5.1 million HIV/AIDS patients, second only to South Africa that has about 5.3 million patients.