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Sense of duty goaded me: AIDS crusader

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 15:28 IST

INVENTOR OF the first auto disable (AD) syringe K1, Marc Koska was in the City on Thursday in connection with his NGO Safe Point’s ‘National Safe Injection Week’. The 45-year-old self-confessed ‘beach bum’ turned ‘inventor’ started a non-profit NGO Safe Point as a logical sequel to his company Star Syringes a few years ago.

The main aim of the NGO is to spread awareness among the third world countries about how unsafe injections cause the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis claiming lives of innocent people across the globe.

It was an article in a newspaper in 1984, which drew his attention to the issue of unsafe syringes. It was then that he devoted his energies until the invention of K1 some 17 years later. Marc, who was a designer of plastic models, and spent most of his time yachting in high seas, has spent the last few years on educating people on the use of safe syringes. 

As against the normal disposable syringe, which is used at least three to seven times in the developing world, the auto disable (AD) syringe breaks automatically when reuse is attempted. The ADs are cheap, easy to manufacture and use, scalable and simple to operate, claims Marc, who has recently received the Officer of the British Empire (OBE) honour from Prince Charles in UK.

The first thought when he was able to cut the design was that of “a huge sense of responsibility … towards the younger generation, towards the underprivileged and towards humanity at large.” Marc brought along his nine-year-old daughter Flora, who he claims breathes the principles propagated by Safe Point. A brand ambassador by default, Flora represents the very generation that Marc and his NGO are trying to educate.

When asked about the changes in India that he has observed over last the few years, he says, “Over the years I have seen change of attitude in policy makers but percentage wise, it is still a long way to go.” That time there were giants in the syringe industry. “At one point of time there was tremendous pressure on me to sell my company, but I believe with a bit of knowledge and responsibility you can control such a situation,” he said adding, “but the most motivating factor for not bowing to the pressure was my daughter. Tomorrow, I do not want a situation where I cannot answer Flora.”

And then there were other hurdles. Government resistance was the main thing in developing countries. “Plus, people do not change their habits very easily. But in UK it was relatively easy to educate people. But in developing world the problems are immense, related to illiteracy and lack of awareness.”

“But looking at the scenario in the developing world, countries like India and Indonesia, this is not even a drop in the ocean,” he rues.

“The main problem in the developing world is they are not aware of the problem. Here is a situation where we have a solution, but people do not know what the problem is.”

“Our target is students in the 6-16 year age group. We need to keep on telling them till the message is drilled into their brains, so that tomorrow when they are in a position to chose, they can say yes, I was an AD syringe.”

“Today, may be our syringes are not the best, but we offer something within reach of the masses,” Marc adds cheerfully. Safe Point had also organised an interactive session which was attended by CHMO Dr K K Vijayvergiya and IMA (Indore unit) president Dr Arun Agrawal. The NGO had also staged street plays in different areas in the City and organised awareness programme at a school in Vijay Nagar.