Stars join leaders in AIDS campaign

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty and Sharmila Tagore and former India cricket captain Kapil Dev shared the stage with politicians and policy makers here on Thursday to advocate an "AIDS-free India" on World AIDS Day.

The programme, `Celebration of a Remarkable Journey,' organised by the National AIDS Control Organisation and the Project Concern International was aimed at "ensuring that the youth of the country remain safe and AIDS-free."

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Oscar Fernandes, Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and Lok Sabha member Priya Dutt were also at the function.

Felicitating the 30-member team of `AIDS Walk for Life' that spent 362 days travelling across the country to spread awareness, Ms. Gandhi said: "Education and awareness about AIDS is the only vaccination that we have against this disease. We also have to change our outlook towards AIDS and work at erasing the social stigma attached to it."

Calling upon the capital to "Say No to AIDS," Ms. Dikshit said: "I call upon the people of Delhi to come together to work towards spreading awareness about AIDS. We need to unite to keep AIDS at bay."

Salman Khan said: "Those HIV-negative people who can't respect HIV-positive people need not come to see my movies. HIV-negative people have no right to be rude or hate people who are living with the virus. Safe sex and responsible behaviour are a must for the younger generation and those who think that they are at risk should make it a point to get themselves tested regularly."

Awareness the key

Kapil Dev said: "We are sensible people, we only need to be careful and we would be leaders of the world some day."

Anil Kapoor said the youth need to start talking about the virus and the problems that it brings along. "AIDS knows no boundaries and it is high time that the youth spread the message about AIDS and not the virus."

Sharmila Tagore, who asked Dr. Ramadoss to integrate children in the National Action Plan Against AIDS, said: "We need to redirect our attention to the children of the country who unfortunately don't find space in policies."