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Taking on AIDS on their own

Issue like child marriage, sale of illicit liquor and pre-marriage HIV tests are being handled by self help groups with the help of aanganwadi workers.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 03:08 IST

Bagalkot: ‘Self help is the best help’. Perhaps nowhere the adage finds better expression than in Hippargi and Nevalgi villages of Karnataka where villagers have formed their own self help groups to battle deadly diseases like AIDS and Chikungunya.

Issue like child marriage, sale of illicit liquor and pre-marriage HIV tests are being handled by these groups with the help of aanganwadi workers, doctors of primary health centers, gram panchayat members and ex-servicemen.

"Our village was battling with myriad problems. Besides AIDS, people were dying due to chikungunya and malaria. The free flow of liquor and illiteracy only aggravated our problems," said Laxman, vice-president of Nevalgi village. "We knew the government alone cannot solve our problems. We had to be self-reliant," he added.

So if residents of Nevalgi brought down the number of AIDS deaths, initiated self-help groups, began literacy and legal empowerment classes in the village, Hippargi put a stop to the widely prevalent practice of child marriages. It made HIV tests compulsory for wannabe brides and grooms.

"Child marriage is highly prevalent in this area. Girls were married off at the age of eight or nine years. Most of them are trapped in bad marriages. They had to go through a lot of turmoil," said Bheemappa, whose daughter had a traumatic marriage. "Two years ago, the gram panchayat decided to ban child marriages in our village," he said.

High levels of seasonal migration by farmers to other areas, influx of farm labourers during sugarcane harvesting from nearby states, especially Maharashtra that has a high prevalence of HIV, and existence of the devdasi tradition makes Bagalkot highly vulnerable to HIV-AIDS.

The people are aware they are prone to the pandemic, so in addition to awareness programmes, they arrange health camps to treat various sexually transmitted infections and have set up condom vending machines in villages.

Special beauty

Ahmedabad: A 20-year-old Ekta Rangani sashayed down the ramp in a designer saree to the strains of a popular tune. Nothing unusual you would say. Only Ekta is visually-impaired.

In the country's first beauty and fashion for special participants, 30 visually-impaired girls from across Gujarat took part in the show in Surendranager town, 112 kms from here.

"This is the first time that a fashion show of this nature is being organised in India wherein the models and their groomers are all visually-impaired.


First Published: Nov 27, 2006 03:08 IST