Indian Folk Artists Launch HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign to Coincide With Hindu Festival
A group of Indian folk singers and actors on Saturday in West Bengal, India, launched a 10-day HIV/AIDS awareness campaign directed at those who frequent prostitutes, Agence France-Presse reports. The event was planned to coincide with the Durga Puja festival, the largest annual Hindu festival in the region, which begins tomorrow in celebration of the Hindu goddess of strength and protection. During the campaign, the artists will perform at 3,500 festival sites and at major road intersections, police barracks and red light districts, where they will also distribute condoms. Many of the songs they will perform were composed specifically "to remind people of the dangers of visiting prostitutes and of taking necessary precautions if they like to do it," Pranoy Dutta, a "prominent" folk singer, said. According to Mrinal Kanti Dutta, who organizes AIDS awareness campaigns among prostitutes, the educational campaign was scheduled for this week because the Durga Puja festival "breaks all social barriers" and brings "millions" to Calcutta each year, where many travelers will visit prostitutes and contract HIV during the week. The Indian health ministry recently estimated that up to 3.5 million Indians have HIV. However, unofficial estimates place the number as high as five million people out of a population of one billion (Agence France-Presse, 10/20). Meanwhile, also on Saturday, nearly 100 sex workers held a rally in Calcutta's Sonagachi red light district to urge the government to "step up" its fight against HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. The prostitutes sang songs and performed a street play at the rally to demonstrate "how the threat of AIDS had entered Indian homes" and how the virus could be transmitted to infants (Reuters, 10/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.