KERALA

AIDS awareness programmes planned

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, NOV. 29. World AIDS Day will be observed here on Wednesday with a variety of programmes, including a football match, aimed at creating awareness about the disease.

The Health Minister, K.K. Ramachandran, told presspersons today that the `AIDS Vilambara Jatha' would be flagged off by the Minister for Cultural Affairs, A.P. Anil Kumar, at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday. This would be followed by a seminar at the Press Club and the `Kick Out AIDS' football match.

The match would be played between a team consisting of IPS and IAS officers and MLAs on one side, and the rival team, which would include persons who are HIV Positive. There would also be a match between the Sathosh Trophy team and Kerala University team in the evening.

The programmes for Wednesday would include an AIDS Walk to be flagged off by the Sports Minister, Dominic Presentation, at 7 a.m. from the Kanakakunnu Palace grounds. This would be followed by a motor rally by NCC cadets and public meetings. A seminar would be held on this year's theme, `Girls, Women and AIDS', at 11 a.m. at Adhayapaka Bhavan.

The Minister noted that transmission of AIDS from pregnant mothers to the baby could be prevented now through medication. The facility for screening was available at the Medical College here. Voluntary counselling and Testing Centres were also functioning in every district.

High incidence

The incidence of AIDS among pregnant mothers in the State had increased from around 0.1 per cent in 1998 to 0.33 per cent this year, according to sample surveys. The incidence was about 2.5 per cent among high-risk groups. However, these were low compared to other States.

Each year, about 500 HIV-infected children were born. Most of them died before five years of age. Deaths caused by AIDS reported so far were only 697 in the State. However, there was under-reporting of cases. About 50 per cent of AIDS patients were women. Unsafe sexual practices by partners were often the reason for their contracting AIDS.

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