World AIDS Day celebrated in Tripura

tripura, aidsAgartala, Dec. 1 : Thousands of people in Tripura pledged Monday to step up the fight against HIV by spreading awareness about the dreaded virus.

School children, health workers, different non-government organizations, people from different walk of life, including sex workers marched through the streets in Agartala - to mark World AIDS Day and educate the public about prevention and treatment for the HIV-positive.

Students from different schools, collages and educational institutes, different non-government organizations, people from different walk of life including sex workers participated in the main rally that stated from the Stable ground here.

Hundreds of students with placards on AIDS awareness and different dressed participated in the rally organized jointly by the State NSS Cell, Tripura AIDS Control Society and Education department.

Kakali Das, a student said: "I want to spread the message that people affected by AIDS can lead a normal life and we should also treat them normally. And I want to spread this message today when we are participating in this rally on the World AIDS Day."

Badal Debbarma, another student, said: "Our northeast youths needs special care to stop the spread of AIDS because already the killer disease is spreading fast as because a good number of youth who are drug addicted share needle."

The slogan this year is ''Lead-Empower-Deliver'', highlighting the political leadership needed to fulfil commitments that have been made in the response to AIDS, particularly the promise of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, and celebrating the leadership that has been witnessed at all levels of society.

Jarina Begum, a coordinator for informing sex workers about the dangers of AIDS, said: "We aware the female sex workers (FSW), ask for blood test, let them know about the disease and ask them to use condom which we supply them. We even take them for counseling to doctors and when required."

In India''s northeast, where a large number of drug users have sparked fears of a worsening AIDS epidemic here.

With some 2.5 million Indians HIV positive, India ranks second only to South Africa in terms of the number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

While the seven northeastern states have a total of about 35,000 HIV-positive patients, authorities fear the disease may spread because of the region''s acute drug problem.

India''s northeast borders the heroin-producing "Golden Triangle" of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand and has high rates of intravenous drug use - a key cause of HIV infection here.

The seven states account for less than three percent of India''s one billion-plus population but are home to more than 30 percent of the country''s total intravenous drug users, according to various estimates.

A new classification done by the National Aids Control Programme (NACO) shows that the disease is spread across as many as 20 states in 163 districts, Contrary to conventional wisdom that high prevalence of HIV/AIDS is restricted to southern states and some places in the North-East.

There are now 33.2 million people living with HIV, according to 2007 figures released by WHO. An estimated 2.5 million were newly infected with the virus and 2.1 million died of AIDS the same year.

World AIDS Day on 1 December is the day when individuals and organisations from around the world come together to raise awareness about AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. (ANI)