Actors lend their voices to awareness videos about HIV-AIDS

Anushka Shetty surprised many when she remorsefully narrated how, back in 2001, she reluctantly consumed the food cooked by a person with HIV because of her ignorance about how one contracted the infection. “After having been banished by the locals, those men and women were living in chicken sheds. One day, when I visited them, they gave me the food they had cooked themselves. Though I managed to conceal my discomfort, I never went back,” she said at an event organised by Piya Sorcar, founder and CEO of TeachAIDS.

Star backing

Eight years later, when she was contacted by Piya, whose research project at Stanford University turned into a non-profit organisation committed to spreading awareness about HIV and several other issues, for support, Anushka immediately hopped on board. And now Anushka has lent her voice to the Tamil version, along with three of her colleagues — Suriya, Shruti Hassan and Siddharth — for awareness videos about HIV-AIDS. The videos feature animated versions of the stars taking on the role of inquisitive patients and doctors. Shruti Hassan and Shabana Azmi have dubbed for the English version.

After having officially started TeachAIDS in 2009, Piya wanted to focus on the fight against HIV in India. Since then, she has managed to bring together reputed professors and academics from varied fields of study, including medicine and IT to help create the video.

“In India, there is so much taboo attached to sexual education. We found that there was a lot of misinformation and deliberate sidestepping of key issues regarding HIV and the way it spreads,” says Piya.

“Conversations about AIDS tend to be moralistic. We focus on the mechanism through which one gets infected. We stick to biology and talk about bodily fluids, virus etc. This help us bypass the taboos,” she reiterates.

Get talking

The video has two versions: interactive and linear. The interactive video allows users to ask questions while the linear one provides the key concepts. The video, released earlier in many languages across many countries, has been embraced even in the most conservative of societies, Piya informs. “In Botswana, a lot of pastors have come on board. They feel comfortable.”

R. Leelakrishnan, joint director (IEC), Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, said that Red Ribbon Clubs were already active in over 10,006 colleges in the State. As many as 700 clubs will use TeachAIDS materials.