ANDHRA PRADESH

Amala kisses AIDS blues away

HYDERABAD Sept. 6. There were tears in her eyes, as Amala Akkineni appealed earnestly. "Hugging and kissing a HIV positive person does not transmit the virus to you,'' she said, and went on to do just that to two-year-old Deepak.

The impressive gathering of students at the Ravindra Bharathi, who participated in a rally from the Lal Bahadur Stadium, responded by clapping their hands. Little Deepak is under the care of the Freedom Foundation's rehabilitation centre, `Diya'.

``People in AP are generally more aware than other States, but we need to join hands and work to bring awareness to greater levels,'' Ms. Amala pleaded at the programme organised by the Freedom Foundation to improve awareness on `Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV' (PPTCT), supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation.

The Mayor, T. Krishna Reddy, said that the people who were HIV positive should not be looked down upon by others. Speaking on how easy it was to prevent the deadly HIV, he called upon everyone to work together to make the State `AIDS-free'.

The Project Director, A.P. State AIDS Control Society (APSACS), K. Damayanthi, spoke of the need for students to be careful. "Delay or abstinence of pre-marital sex is important,'' she warned, adding that instances of extra-marital, too, were on the rise. "Your life is precious and so is that of your partner,'' she said.

Karl Sequeira of Freedom Foundation said that according to APSACS two per cent of pregnant mothers were testing positive for HIV. Since September 2002, the Freedom Foundation, with the support from the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, USA, had been working on PPTCT of HIV.

The programme involved offering free testing of pregnant mothers for HIV and free medication to help lower the virus load during pregnancy and thus reduce transmission of the virus from mother to child.

Mr. Karl Sequeira said that the Freedom Foundation and the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation had been working with two hospitals since last year. The two agencies had expanded the programme to six hospitals in the State.

Others at the programme included Padmaja from Fernandez Hospital, the State coordinator of National Service Scheme (NSS), Venkatachalam, and the Hyderabad district coordinator, Durga. A majority of the students at the rally were NSS volunteers.

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