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Shilpa Shetty launches AIDS foundation

The actress was in the central English city of Leicester in London on Wednesday to launch a charitable foundation for raising awareness of the AIDS virus in India.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2007, 13:00 IST
Agence France Presse
Agence France Presse

Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, who has become a household name in Britain since winning a reality television programme last month, was in the central English city of Leicester on Wednesday to launch a charitable foundation for raising awareness of the AIDS virus in India.

The 31-year-old actress launched the Shilpa Shetty Foundation amid chaos in the city, home to one of Britain's biggest Indian communities, as she was forced to abandon a visit to a local radio station after a throng of fans prevented her from leaving her car.

Fans had waited for hours in the cold for a chance to see Shetty, who rose to prominence after enduring what was alleged to be racist bullying on Celebrity Big Brother, where a group of housemates are locked in a specially designed house for four weeks, with their actions aired round the clock.

Speaking to visitors who had each paid five pounds (7.6 euros, 9.9 dollars) to see the star, Shetty said of her foundation: "It is a cause that has been very, very close to my heart. Not just now but for the last four years."

"India is the second largest affected country in the world with the AIDS. So I think it's important to do something about it and it's every person's right to live with dignity in our country, even it's a person who is HIV positive."

"It's very difficult to do that only because there's no awareness and I am going to do my bit to support that and I think starting this organisation is really going to help us try a new beginning."

Shetty's fans, however, were furious that they did not get a chance to see her, with one, 29-year-old Kausar Khan, telling Britain's domestic Press Association: "I've been here since 4.45 pm and I'm really disappointed because I was so excited to see her. It's not good."

She had travelled to the Belgrave area of Leicester, a well-known part of the city famed for its annual Diwali celebrations which are apparently the biggest in the world outside India, along with the area's MP Keith Vaz.

Shetty's torment sparked a diplomatic incident, with Indian ministers vowing "appropriate action" and Blair and finance minister Gordon Brown being forced to speak out on the issue.

Television viewers made more than 40,000 complaints, while in India furious demonstrators torched effigies of her tormentors.

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