Actor Richard Gere Announces Project To Expand Public Discussion of HIV/AIDS in India
Actor Richard Gere, who has been a "vocal campaigner against HIV/AIDS" in India for several years, has announced a campaign to fight HIV/AIDS in India in which celebrities from Bollywood films, sports figures, business leaders and government officials will serve as spokespeople, the AP/Miami Herald reports (Talwar Badam, AP/Miami Herald, 12/2). Gere's initiative, called the "Heroes Project," aims to increase public discussion of the Indian HIV/AIDS epidemic with television, radio and print advertisements, the AP/CP/Canada.com reports (AP/CP/Canada.com, 12/2). According to a recent UNAIDS and World Health Organization report on the state of the global AIDS epidemic, although the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in India -- three million to six million people -- is "relatively low" compared with the country's population size, the low prevalence "masks epidemics in several regions" of the country. In five Indian states, each of which are larger than many countries, more than 1% of pregnant women are HIV-positive. In addition, HIV prevalence among sex workers is high, with approximately 50% of sex workers in Mumbai testing HIV-positive. The report also said that up to 75% of injection drug users in the country test HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/26). Gere said, "If you work with the creative community, the incredible power of industry, then bring in the government and the judicial system, you can solve any problem" (AP/CP/Canada.com, 12/2).
Sex Workers in Mumbai
During a trip to Mumbai, Gere met with female sex workers and AIDS advocates, watching them play a board game to demonstrate the "thousands of rupees they would spend on medical care" if they became HIV-positive, compared with the cost of a condom, which is approximately one rupee, according to the AP/Herald. AIDS educators provide sex workers in the city with booklets that include "colorful drawings" illustrating how they could contract HIV, the AP/Herald reports. Gere said, "It's unbelievable that all this is still new information to many of them. To get through to them simple ideas about health is not an easy process." He added, "You've got to do everything you can to take care of sick people and also spend all your energy on prevention" (AP/Miami Herald, 12/2).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in India is available online as part of kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.
Also available online is a kaisernetwork.org video feature on HIV/AIDS in India. The report -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, also a correspondent for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer -- includes interviews with people who are on frontlines of India's efforts.