For Collector M. Karunagaran, the day began with a set of cultural performances such as ‘Karagattam’ and ‘Oyil Karagam’.
However far from an entertaining event, it was meant to be an educative affair marking the start of a long awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS undertaken by the Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (TANSACS).
According to TANSACS District Programme Manager (District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit) B. Mohamed Ali, the campaign would predominantly focus on creating awareness in rural areas through an easily understandable format.
For a period of 50 days, these folk artistes would tour the rural areas of 23 districts from Coimbatore, Tirupur, Thiruvallur, Kancheepuram and Namakkal to Madurai, Virudhunagar and Theni. The remaining nine districts have been covered in an earlier campaign by the Red Ribbon Express programme through a similar initiative.
They would give two performances a day, each lasting about an hour-and-a-half, focussing on spreading information. Exclusive songs and dialogues have been prepared for the performers.
They would be accompanied in an ICTC (integrated counselling, testing centre) mobile van by TANSACS medical counsellors, who would answer all the queries of the public, and laboratory technicians who would conduct medical tests free of cost.
Besides distributing free of cost condoms, materials on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infection (STI), safe blood donation and preventing parent-to-child transmission (PPCT) would also be given to the public.
Further, TANSACS would also be putting up information, education and communication (IEC) stalls at all the programme venues.
Dr. Ali said that TANSACS implemented several schemes to achieve the goal of the World Health Organisation: zero new infection, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero stigma and discrimination.