Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS has ensured that everyone knows the two words but there are college and school students who are yet to be roped into the campaign against the spread of the infection.

At the Marina Beach in Chennai on Thursday quite a few youngsters who lined up to place their thumb impressions did not have the slightest idea what they were doing it for. Some youngsters said they did not understand the message on the board as it was in Tamil. P. Deepika and S. Shamini followed the lead set by their friends and placed their thumb impression. Though they did not understand the language or the message, they did not mind taking time off from their outing when they were explained the significance of their act.

Neither did Karthik and Seetha, employed in private firms have any idea of the significance of the event. The two friends who came to the beach spared a few minutes with Jenice, a staff of the Madras Christian Council of Social Service (MCCSS) that had organised the event. She explained to them the various routes of transmission of the virus.

In contrast, a sea shells seller did not hesitate when requested to participate in the event. Not only did he know the seriousness of contracting the infection but also empathised with those infected. He did not want to talk about his friend who, he said, had been diagnosed with AIDS six years ago and refused to take medicines.

“Now he has turned to alcohol. I don’t want to talk about it. It is his life and I have no business discussing it with others,” the visibly upset man said when asked why he agreed to place his thumb impression.

Barnabas Pravin, a social work trainee from the Madras Christian College, who was part of the MCCSS team said: “There are two sets of people. One set does not want to take medicines and the other set copes with life and tries to help by joining non-governmental organisations to spread the message.”

Every year, the third Sunday of May is observed as memorial day for those who lost their lives to AIDS.

The MCCSS, which works with slum dwellers in Chennai, proposes to collect around 500 thumb impressions as part of the Memorial Day.

At the end of the event on Thursday, candles were lit in memory of those who had died of the infection.