AIDS Healthcare Foundation observed the World AIDS Day event with ‘Keep the promise’ initiative- a call to action and a reminder to world leaders that with 1 million people still dying of AIDS every year, the epidemic is far from over. This event was organised on a global scale and witnessed a series of concerts during the week leading up to World AIDS Day.
In Mumbai, the event witnessed the participation of over 70 children who were living with HIV/AIDS. They put up musical recitals and dance performances and were part of Keep the promise activity to highlight the problems associated with the disease. A documentary that paid tribute to AHF’s work over the last thirty years was also showcased. During the event AHF provided free HIV testing services, held interactive awareness-raising sessions and distributed condoms. Also, the ‘Righteous Rebels Awards’ were bestowed on NGO’s and volunteers who had whole heartedly championed for the cause.
The event witnessed the participation of several eminent celebrities such as Arjun Rampal (model and actor), Geeta Kapoor (ace choreographer), Tara Sharma( actor and entrepreneur), Madhushree (singer), Shaina (designer and politician), Hrishita Bhat (actress and model), Meenakshi Dixit (actress and model), Sadashiv Kisan Lokhande (member of Shiv Sena), Shrikant Eknath Shinde(Member of Parliament), Pratyasha Bole (model), Bhairavi Goswami (actress), Suchhi Kumar(actor/model & fitness enthusiast), Vandana Vadehra (singer), Anjusha Chaughule(social activist) and Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil (Gay Prince of India and Gay rights activist). These celebrities got themselves publically tested for HIV to fight the stigmatization and discrimination that the disease faced.
There were two noteworthy initiatives that were launched during the event. The #REDx2 campaign, for safe and voluntary blood donation, was launched in collaboration with Facebook. Through this campaign AHF aims to create a pool of willing blood donors who will stay connected through Facebook and can be easily contacted for urgent donations. AHF is taking up this initiative as a pilot project for 3 months and will set up 10 blood banks in Delhi & Mumbai simultaneously.
The second is a ten-day campaign called the ‘Testathon’. Under this, AHF will conduct free HIV testing and counselling across 10 districts of five states namely, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The campaign will start from December 1st and will go on till December 10th. The aim is to scale up intervention and increase access to testing among the masses including the high risk groups in these states.
Dr V Sam Prasad, Country Program Director AHF India said, “World AIDS day is essential because it brings people back to the fundamentals of fighting AIDS thereby encouraging discussion and discourse. India has made some remarkable progress in addressing the HIV epidemic. Not only has the country been able to substantially reduce the incidence of HIV, but has also been successful in providing universal treatment and care to those living with HIV – dramatically decreasing the morbidity and mortality rates. Our ‘Keep the promise’ event in Mumbai was full of festivities and jest. Live performances helped unite and empower people from different walks of life against HIV/AIDS.”
Michael Weinstein, AHF President said, “This year’s World AIDS Day is particularly meaningful for AHF as it marks our 30thanniversary and the fact that our organisation has cared for over 830,000 patients around the world. When AHF began as the AIDS Hospice Foundation in 1987, we were facing dire circumstances and a lot of uncertainty. Each day we were fighting just to keep AIDS patients from having to die in the streets or overcrowded hospitals. Our hope is that our big concert events will help keep the spotlight on nations so that they keep their promise to do all that they can to stop HIV/AIDS from claiming additional lives.”
According to the WHO there are currently 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, and in 2016 1 million people died from HIV-related causes. Collective action by the National AIDS Control Organization, civil society, academia and international bodies have made the progress against this epidemic substantial. In 2017, the World AIDS Day calls for increasing programme and advocacy impact through strategic partnerships, transparency and accountability in interventions to bring about radical and far-reaching changes within the space.