Rallies and awareness programmes marked World AIDS Day, observed on Wednesday. The theme this year was ‘Universal access and human rights'.

In Tambaram, at the inauguration of a new facility at Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine,, Minister for Health M.R.K. Panneerselvam said the recently created corpus fund of Rs.5 crore to help treat 1,500 children with HIV/AIDS reflected the State government's commitment towards a crucial sector of healthcare.

Stating that the amount could be increased with contributions from the industry, especially around Oragadam in Kancheepuram district, the Minister said he would be donating two months of his salary to the fund. The Minister also released a special souvenir on the occasion, the first copy of which was received by Labour Minister T.M. Anbarasan.

Mr. Panneerselvam also released a special publicity poster. He dedicated the Centre of Excellence inside the premises of GHTM. According to officials, the Centre of Excellence was created with financial support of Rs.30 lakh from National AIDS Control Society given to GHTM in recognition of the hospital's role in HIV/AIDS care. Counselling and training courses would be conducted at this centre, they added.

A 17-year-old girl, who spoke on the occasion, hogged the limelight with her brief speech. She said her father died of AIDS some years ago and she was forced to drop out of school. At a time when no help came from her relatives and her close circle, she was supported by the Positive Women's Network and she was able to continue her schooling, though she missed two years.

Stating that she had personally seen for herself the tremendous contribution made by doctors, the girl, studying in plus two, said she would study hard and realise her dream of becoming a doctor and serve the society with devotion and care.

Plan to increase corpus

V.K. Subburaj, Principal Secretary Health, said the government planned to increase the corpus fund for helping children with HIV/AIDS from Rs.5 crore to Rs.25 crore in a year's time. Corporates and software firms have been approached for help.

S. Noori, managing trustee of SIP Memorial Home, appealed to the State government to provide second line drugs in at least one of the five Anti-Retroviral Therapy centres in Chennai. Almost all of those receiving second line drugs in this region were dependant only on GHTM, that was burdened with meeting the requirements of a many and people spent an entire day trying to receive the drugs.

P. Amudha, Project Director, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society; Ashish Chatterjee, Collector, Kancheepuram District; E.Mani, Tambaram Municipal Chairman and C. Chandrasekar, Superintendent, GHTM, also spoke.

A release said a relay cycle rally from various parts of Tamil Nadu reached Tambaram on Tuesday morning. A variety entertainment programme, including those presented by members of the transgender community, was held on the occasion. Mr. Panneerselvam also handed over awards for the best performing ART Centre, best integrated and testing centre under public private partnership programme, best community care centre, best red ribbon club and best HIV service provider.

Rally-cum-awareness campaign

Rotary International District 3230 organised a rally-cum-awareness campaign at the Marina beach. About 1,200 college students took part in spreading the message of “Prevent AIDS”.

District Rotaract Chairman K. Ganesan said that it is critical to involve students in AIDS awareness as they are among the most vulnerable sections of the population. “Incidence rates in Tamil Nadu have dropped by 50 per cent from the 2001 levels. Clearly, awareness campaigns are playing a role,” he added. St. Joseph's Higher Secondary School, Tambaram, organised an awareness programme in which 1,500 students participated. S. Jeyakumar, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chennai Suburban, flagged off a rally from Fatima Church in Tambaram.

CONCERN, a voluntary organisation under the auspices of Asha Nivas and the National Service Scheme cell of SSN College of Engineering, Kalavakkam, organised awareness programmes that included competitions in writing slogans, essays, oratory, painting, drama on the theme of preventing spread of HIV infection and AIDS

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