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Die another day... know AIDS now

Arvind Singhal... know your enemy to conquer it.

INCREASINGLY BEING seen as a pet theme of our social and political glitterati to keep busy, the devil of AIDS, in a way has been reduced to a cocktail snack in most situations in India. We all pay lip service to it and yet in no way, has the figure of affected been scaled down. So, when interpersonal communication experts from the American shores Arvind Singhal and Everett M. Rogers say that improper communication is spawning AIDS swell across the world, we all yawn, for we already know it. After all, almost all the AIDS dos here never miss the key word ignorance. But what these two university professors' recently co-authored book, "Combating AIDS, Communication Strategies in Action" make it interestingly readable is what we rarely get to hear. It lucidly deliberates on communication strategies to arrest AIDS growth pumped up with successful instances in many a world part.

"India is way behind compared to many countries. It still has not woken up to the emergency. A big price has to be paid for this," comments Singhal, here in Delhi for the India release of the book printed by Sage Publications. Giving examples mentioned in his book, this Presidential Research Scholar and professor at Ohio University's School of Interpersonal Communication says, "Look at countries like Brazil and Kenya. They have done tremendously commendable work to stem the killer disease. The people of Brazil have to be saluted for fighting with the Government to get their right to save themselves from AIDS through free anti-retrovirals. Every address by the Kenyan president start with a message to combat AIDS. At the least, this sends across the message that the administration is serious about combating the deadly bug."

He agrees that unlike these countries, both India and China's greatest impediment is their mammoth population. "Tamil Nadu is doing a praiseworthy job in fighting AIDS. If it had been a small country, no doubt the world would have been talking about it. But, this State is just a part of the entire nation, where in some parts, people are not even ready to talk about it," says this author of many a communication-related book including "India's Communication Revolution: From Bullock Carts to Cyber Marts". So herein, he feels that his book would be a handy guide in his country of origin, from where he remained away for the last 15 years.

The book underlines communication strategies that can mobilise political will, target high-risk groups and overcome stigma, highlight the importance of communication activities being culturally appropriate so that they do not offend, stress on the work being done at the grassroots level by individuals and organisations to humanise the epidemic, utilise the role of entertainment-education radio and television programmes to encourage its prevention and learn from case studies of a few nations that are seriously involved in the struggle to slow down the epidemic.

"Otherwise, AIDS is well on its way to outstrip the plague of the 14th and 15th centuries," cautions Singhal, narrowing his eyes. And for those who still are unruffled, AIDS has already eaten up 25 million lives across the world while the virus has entered into at least 40 million people, an estimated 95 per cent of whom will not survive.

Not only that, about 15,000 people are infected with HIV every day, 95 per cent of them in developing countries.


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