Red Cross Society plan to create AIDS awareness in 4 districts

NAMAKKAL, AUG. 1. The Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) is planning to put in place a ``Youth Peer Education Programme'' to create awareness of Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Namakkal, Salem, Erode and Dharmapuri districts. Heads of identified institutions have been sensitised to the programme, according to the IRCS Secretary-General, Vimala Ramalingam.

Dr. Vimala was speaking at a IRCS-sponsored ``Youth peer education programme and training of trainers programme'' here on Friday.

If the AIDS menace was not tackled properly, it would affect the development of Namakkal district. She stressed the need for targeting and training children and the youth to create awareness of the menace as that would help stem the rot.

Counsellors would help the students become peer leaders through the ``Youth-friendly counselling'' programmes. For the purpose, the IRCS had planned to reach out to 20 schools and as many colleges in Namakkal, Erode, Salem and Dharmapuri districts this year, Dr. Vimala said.

The IRCS had also taken up the cause of supporting ``positive'' women.

Tending `positive' women

Pointing out that AIDS was a disease of the poor and women ultimately, the IRCS Secretary-General said ``we have to teach the positive women to look after themselves by empowering them through proper rehabilitation measures. Until such time our women learn to say no to their errant husbands, we need to support the hapless women victims.''

She said a free legal aid cell was formed in Namakkal district to help the positive girls and women for fighting family alienation.

The IRCS had also formulated a ``safe school programme'' under which a psycho-social programme for the benefit of survivors of the Kumbakonam school fire.

Core group

The District Collector, V.M. Xavier Chrisso Nayakam, called upon the Government staff and the extension department officials to reach out to AIDS victims. Lack of proper training and sensitisation programme for the officials was a handicap. A core group was formed to tackle the menace in the district.

The Joint Director (in charge), Health and Family Welfare, Arunagiri, said three per cent of the ante-natal cases in Namakkal district were found to be positive. Twenty per cent of the visitors to the Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre also turned out to be positive.

A 13-member team, including members of the Red Cross fraternity from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Denmark, Spain and Red Cross officials from the Red Cross international headquarters at Geneva, who accompanied Dr. Vimala, visited the IRCS-run day care centre at Koolipatti, near here, and interacted with the inmates there. The international team also interacted with the participants at the workshop.

The Health Officer at the Geneva Secretariat, Grace Lo, stressed the need to tackle the stigma and social discrimination of AIDS-affected women. That was a great challenge that needed to be addressed at the earliest.

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