Deepa H Ramakrishnan

Pondicherry AIDS Control Society's novel initiative on January 8

PONDICHERRY: If you are physically fit, would like to run a marathon for a cause and win a prize, make sure you are at the Gandhi Thidal on January 8

The Pondicherry AIDS Control Society (PACS) is organising a mega marathon on the morning of January 8 to create awareness about HIV/AIDS among people from all walks of life and age groups.

Men, women, girls and boys can participate in the event as different distances have been set for each age group.

Men have to cover 25 km, while women have to run 6 km.

The race starts and ends at Gandhi Thidal.

The route that the men have to take on their 25-km run is Mudaliarpet, Kombakkam, Villianur, Reddiarpalayam, ECR Road, Ajantha Signal and back to Gandhi Thidal. The Pondicherry AIDS Control Society is giving away 50 prizes in each category.

If you are interested in participating register yourself at the special counter at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Uppalam on January 4, 5 and 6.

Parents' consent

Children have to get their parents' consent to participate in the marathon, which is being organised for the first time in Pondicherry by the society.

The counter will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and identity cards would be given to all those who register. You will have to bring the ID card on Sunday to participate in the run.

Gilbert Fernandez, Project Director, PACS, said the run was being organised to increase the awareness of HIV/AIDS among the people.

"We do have many ongoing programmes to create awareness among the public but such a run would make more heads turn, since we would have volunteers from NGOs distributing pamphlets all along the route taken by the runners.

"And, when people see so many people make an effort to spread the message they would be interested in learning more about the problem."

PACS has been conducting several awareness programmes about HIV/AIDS in Pondicherry, including the School AIDS Education Programme for IX and XI standard students.

"We have covered 195 schools of the total 198 schools in the Union Territory. In slums and rural areas, we have been discussing the issue with leaders of self-help groups, youth clubs and fan clubs so that they would in turn take the message to others," he said.

Already high

"Already, the awareness level is quite high. The Behavioural Surveillance Survey (BSS) done by APAC last July shows that even in rural areas the awareness is above 80 percent and the Pondicherry Government's Health Department survey shows that there is 90 percent awareness among the people.

"Now, we want to change the behavioural pattern of the people, because that is very important. "Through the BSS we came to know that among commercial sex workers and in the MSM group there has been a positive change in their (sexual) behaviour," added Dr. Gilbert Fernandez.