Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Saturday administered a "defeat AIDS pledge" to people in a major effort to create awareness on HIV/AIDS,.
India has 5.13 million people infected with HIV/AIDS. Andhra Pradesh has the highest prevalence of HIV cases in the country with more than 400,000 affected people. According to the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), the HIV prevalence rate is an alarmingly 2.25 percent among antenatal cases and 16.40 percent among those attending sexually transmitted diseases (STD) clinics.
Hundreds of people including college and school students, NGOs, activists, government employees took the pledge simultaneously at 12 noon, at Kotla Vijaybhaskar Reddy indoor stadium and at all schools, colleges and government offices.
They pledged to seek total awareness, abstain from risk behaviour, be empathetic towards HIV/AIDS patients, spread the message that there is no cure for the dreaded disease and prevention is the only cure, and to support the national resolve to defeat HIV/AIDS.
Union Health Minister A. Ramadoss, minister of state P. Lakshmi and state ministers and legislators were present at the function that marked the culmination of a month-long awareness campaign by AASHA (AIDS awareness and sustained holistic action).
Ramdoss flagged off the "AASHA Vahini Caravan" campaign to cover 268 towns in 10 routes in a month.
Earlier, four rallies flagged off by four popular Telugu film actors and actresses in different parts of the city converged at the stadium.
The launch of a partners' forum, installation of condom vending machines, launch of condom vending kiosks, exhibitions, display of hoardings and banners and a human chain were the other highlights of the programme.
Inflated condoms were displayed all over the stadium. Some young volunteers holding inflated condoms also joined VIPs on the dais.
Rajasekhara Reddy called for the need to break the silence and speak up on HIV/AIDS at every government programme. He also urged youth to drop inhibitions and discuss the serious issue.
The chief minister said his government, which was planning to introduce lessons on HIV/AIDS in the textbooks for the ninth standard, was now considering a proposal to start teaching about the issue from the sixth standard. "This is necessary as many children drop out at seventh or eighth standard," he said.
He also underlined the need to teach morals to students, avoid premarital sex and be faithful to one's life partner. "They should also be taught on the precautions to be taken if they commit a mistake," he said.
Ramadoss said a condom was the only way to prevent AIDS.
According to him, HIV/AIDS was not merely a medical and health issue but one that could make or break the country. He cited the example of some African countries where the dreaded disease had caused havoc.