Youth Leaders Make Recommendations on HIV/AIDS Legislation to Indian Government During National Conference
Approximately 3,000 youth leaders from 500 districts across India participated in a conference over the weekend to present to the government their recommendations on the country's draft law on HIV/AIDS, according to a UNAIDS release. The conference, titled "National Student and Youth Parliament Special Session on HIV/AIDS," was organized by the Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS with financial support from India's National AIDS Control Organization, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Human Resource Development and UNAIDS. Civil society organizations -- such as the Lawyer's Collective, Population Foundation of India and Mamta -- also were involved in the conference, according to the release (UNAIDS release, 11/5). The students on Sunday in a mock parliament session passed the bill, which would protect HIV-positive people from prejudice and discrimination and establish a National AIDS Commission, the IANS/NewKerala.com reports. Indian Health Minister Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss later on Sunday said that the government has decided to enact the legislation, according to the IANS/NewKerala.com (IANS/NewKerala.com, 11/8).
More than 35% of AIDS cases in India occur among people between 15 and 24 years old, according to UNAIDS. Therefore, the conference organizers "recognize that mobilizing and partnering with young people is critical" in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country, according to the release. "HIV/AIDS is one of the major challenges to human existence. Youth are the most vulnerable, hence should be motivated to fight against AIDS, and once motivated, they will be great fighters," Ramadoss said, adding, "This Youth Parliament is highly commendable as it is aiming at training young people to be ambassadors in the fight against HIV/AIDS." During the conference, about 180 youth participants received training on HIV/AIDS issues, including prevention, care, societal impact and human rights. "AIDS is an exceptional crisis demanding an exceptional response," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said, adding, "It particularly needs the leadership of the young who are most at risk. We have a role in making sure all young people have access to accurate and timely information and services" (UNAIDS release, 11/5). Oscar Fernandes, who convened the Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS, said, "We have organized this event to enable the students and youth representatives to have a national debate on the legislation on AIDS. The involvement of young people in framing the law is critical" (Hindu, 11/6).
In related news, a program conducted by the Ishara Puppet Theater Trust and the Salaam Balak Trust in India will train street children in the country to become "roving puppeteers" who use marionettes to promote safe sex practices, HIV/AIDS awareness and gender equity, the Hindustan Times reports. The program, which is funded by UNESCO Paris, will take place over the next two years and include approximately 25 to 30 children who will hold puppet shows for people who are at an increased risk of HIV infection, according to Dadi Pudumjee, head of the Ishara Trust. "This kind of activism works the best because puppets can say things that human beings cannot, and children say things adults cannot," Pudumjee said, adding, "We are looking to make this an alternate profession for these children, a different way to make a living, through which they can also contribute to society and teach a few things to their peers" (Hindustan Times, 11/6).