After trying out every other medium to reach out to the young generation, the government has now turned to the Internet to create awareness on AIDS.
That’s not all. Beginning August 21, millions will also get an SMS – “Do you know your HIV status?” or “Have you got tested for HIV?”
These are among the many AIDS awareness SMSes being sent out by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to millions as part of a nationwide campaign to induce more people to get tested for HIV/AIDS.
NACO’s media campaign so far focussed on more conventional media such as the television, print ads, posters and street plays. Now, with one-third of the total HIV infections occurring in young people, the multimedia campaign has been made more youth-oriented, with NACO sending out its messages through the Internet, cable and satellite services, SMSes and plays at college and university campuses.
“Only 13 per cent HIV-positive people in India know they are infected and despite free testing, only 4.2 million people have got tested last year. This multimedia campaign is designed to help us more than double the number of people seeking counseling and testing to 10 million by the end of the financial year,” says an official with the NACO.
UNAIDS-backed data shows there are 2.47 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India. But with only one in seven of those infected knowing that they are HIV-positive, there are chances of them unknowingly infecting their partners or failing to seek free HIV counseling, testing and treatment being offered under the national programme.
Not knowing their positive status is a major reason why only 82,000 people have registered to get free anti-retroviral treatment used to treat AIDS under the government programme. Under the third phase of the Rs 11,585 crore National Aids Control Programme (NACP-3) launched two months ago, NACO plans to offer counseling and testing services to 42 million people by 2012.