Advitya made an informed choice and today he is creating awareness, targeting misconceptions and attitudes about AIDS while working with women and children.

“Make a difference- (MAD)” is a phrase that has been used, reused and abused on many mediums and multiple campaigns. It is seldom that one comes across omeone who can do justice to its honesty and spirit. Meet 27-year-old AdvityaThapa, a graduate from the Madras School of Social Work, who seems capable of delivering just that and M.A.D in the right direction.

Getting involved

Advitya is presently is the Operations Officer for ‘Friends of India', an NGO based in Geneva involved in funding local organisations and social entrepreneurs. While education and women's empowerment are the central concerns, the organisation is currently supporting the construction of an institutional care facility of orphaned/semi orphaned HIV positive children as well. Through a life-changing journey across the country in 2004, Advitya came to realise his true calling. “I am part of a generation that was provided a lot of awareness on HIV/AIDS. I was always keen on development work. Interaction with people living with this condition made me want to dedicate a part of my life towards providing dignity and happiness to a group severely shortchanged by both Nature and society. I was oriented towards working particularly with women and children as the societal, physiological and psychological effects of the illness on them are severe.”

Talking about the situation in India and its high rate of HIV/AIDS, Advitya feels that although a lot has been done through nationwide awareness programmes and campaigns, there is still a big responsibility at hand. Targeting misconceptions and attitudes among the people is the need of the hour. He elaborates, “I have encountered people who still think mosquitoes can cause the spread of HIV. In my opinion many of us think, ‘it can't happen to me'. This is perhaps a major cause for new cases of HIV being detected. The prenatal and postnatal care of HIV positive women also needs improvment (another reason why children are still being born HIV positive).”

However the situation is not completely bleak. Mediums like the television and radio have a pan India reach and the messages via this medium have penetrated the layers to reach the grassroots. And in severely backward areas, several organisations are doing an excellent job of reinforcing awareness through community-based programmes. “I have observed that even in the most sceptical of communities, trust can be built and maintained through appropriate interventions.”

Belonging to a generation often accused of being selfish and purposed on personal profit, Advitya certainly stands out. He admits that as a society we still have not yet reached a stage where collective good is valued higher than individual gain. But he believes that more people are taking the road less travelled by.

Of course, it is important to have a good support system in place. “My family and friends have always been extremely supportive. I would go so far as saying that they take pride in what I do.” Hopefully, humanitarians like Advitya will inspire more to go down the path that is not often treaded, but much needed.

Niharika has just finished her B.A. in Literature from Stella Maris College.

Keywords: AIDSHIV/AIDS