Every year, December 1 is observed as the World AIDS Day. Going beyond than wearing a red ribbon and showing support, are a few youngsters of Bhopal who have pledged to support the patients besides, spreading awareness on AIDS.
‘There is discrimination because some people see AIDS very differently’
22-year-old Mohsin Khan, co-founder, ANSH Happiness Society, has been organising several discussion sessions in ‘cool’ hangouts in Bhopal. He says, “People are getting aware now. It’s not what it was few years back. Young people are playing a great role being part of various activities and campaigns, not many physically at times but on social media. Still we are second largest population and there are people who see AIDS very differently and because of the same reason there is discrimination visible. I think this can be curbed by making more people aware about the fact and more importantly to add in education system something like life education if not sex education.”
Khan, who has been travelling a lot for his campaigns, shares, “I got a chance to know about AIDS and high risk communities during my graduation and further by interacting with people. One thing I find very common and interesting is what we hide is more dangerous. For example Gays are very pro to have AIDS and it is also common with truck drivers, female sex workers and so on. Once, a gay AIDS patient shared with me that he used to have intercourse at places which are not very people friendly like desolated railway lines, as he had no other option. One female sex worker I met told that she is forced and beaten to have sex without condom and that is the reason she got infected. Such incidents are very common and there is a dire need to talk about them.”
‘There are many reasons other than unprotected sex’
Shireen Naaz, director, German Language School, 23, shares, “I have been speaking on AIDS from past three years and whenever a discussion on AIDS arises in any group people are generally mute with weird looks trying to get out of conversation just like to a condom or sanitary napkin advertisement. Many people think one suffers from AIDS because of sex. There are many reasons other than unprotected sex. So our society needs to be more aware about causes only then they can take precautions.”
Of late, Bhopal has been witness to several cultural programmes and elocution sessions on various social issues. Mehfil, a group of youngsters has been quite consistent with organising such discussions. Kokila Bhattacharya, a design student and an artist is a regular to these ‘mehfils’ and enthusiastically participated in a recent one on LGBT rights.
“The fact that youngsters our age seldom lend thoughts to these issues make it even more important to talk about them. Gender or sexuality inflicted conflict is sheer violence and it’s a shame we are not able to make comfortable spaces for these communities,” she says.
‘I could gauge the sensitivity of the disease when I interacted with children affected by AIDS’
On being asked about her lectures on AIDS, she says, “AIDS needs to be understood first. No matter how much I had read about AIDS I could only gauge the sensitivity of the disease when I interacted with children of sex workers who are affected by HIV/AIDS. It’s important to interact. It’s important to take a leap to know something. Girls my age are stunted and seem to be in their adolescence. 400 children children everyday get infected with HIV. Our ignorance has given rise to discrimination.”
Asserting on the importance of social media, Mohsin says, “There are so many full fledged organisations working to spread awareness and some them are really doing good work. There are many ways an individual can participate, one is to volunteer with any such organisation. Also, today social media is also a powerful medium where you would know that you are being heard or read.”
Shireen, who possess an immense exposure of working for different campaigns, says, “India successfully curbed polio through awareness, we can do this as well. Children in school should be educated about this. I had a lesson on AIDS in my moral science book which made me aware about the causes and prevention when I was 8. I appeal to everyone - don’t avoid. Talk because even you can be a patient tomorrow and you would not want people to behave like this with you. So do it for yourself, do it for AIDS free world.”
“AIDS cannot be hush hushed anymore. The power of conversations will play a huge role in bringing daily lives of HIV affected to normal. The reason children grow up to misunderstand concepts is because a fear is instilled to ask questions. Curiosity is curbed and schools need to discuss this more openly with students through mediums beyond textbooks. 21st century cannot choose taboos over the cost of human lives around the world,” Kokila signs off.