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Bollywood stars join fight against HIV/AIDS

Bollywood stars join fight against HIV/AIDS

india Updated: Dec 04, 2003 14:27 IST

Bollywood stars came out in numbers on Monday, World Aids Day, to express their concern over the rising threat of AIDS in India and to educate children about the disease in schools and orphanages.

"I have come to talk of a serious issue," said Fardeen Khan, a popular star of Bollywood, India's popular Hindi-language film industry.

The actor, whose latest movie "Janasheen" (Close To Heart) released Friday, was visiting a municipal school in Bombay to try to impress on children the deadly nature of the disease.

"One must keep in mind that AIDS is a serious disease that leads to death. We have to educate people to fight it and prevent its menace. We cannot be proud of the fact that India is the second largest country suffering from AIDS," he said.

According to the latest government figures, some 4.58 million Indians are living with HIV/AIDS, the second largest number after South Africa, which has an infected population of around five million.

On Sunday, the Indian government announced it will launch a two billion rupee (43.6 million dollar) programme to provide free medication to HIV-positive parents, children up to age 15 and poor patients using government hospitals.

Health Minister Sushma Swaraj said the government was in negotiations with Indian drug companies to get "rock-bottom drug prices" for Indian AIDS patients.

The film stars were roped in Monday to help with awareness programmes aimed at India's youth.

Another actor, Rahul Bose, known for his offbeat and crossover roles, said the situation was "critical".

"It's high time -- we have reached a critical position now and we need to act fast before it is late," Bose told AFP.

"(The message) is essentially to lead to a socially mature life that will automatically translate into safe sexual habits across generations. It is also high time we discussed sex in society openly and preach safe sex."

The Hindu nationalist-led Indian government has drawn fire in the past from activists for insisting that anti-AIDS programs focus on sexual abstinence rather than condom use.

First Published: Dec 04, 2003 14:27 IST