TAMIL NADU

Suriya offers support to kidney research foundation

FELICITATED: Actor Suriya (centre), being greeted by Georgi Abraham (right), founder trustee, TANKER foundation, on Saturday. From left, Dr. Vijay Nagaswami, Latha Kumaraswami, managing trustee, and Malathi Venkatesan, trustee, look on. — Phot o: S.R. Raghunathan  

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: After his advocacy of timely treatment for tuberculosis, actor Suriya has decided to champion a variety of health issues. The first of which is kidney diseases and chronic renal failure.

On Saturday evening, Suriya became the ambassador for Tamil Nadu Kidney Research Foundation (TANKER) and promised to do all he can for patients to have access to affordable haemodialysis.

Wearing a white tee shirt that read "I Support TANKER," the Gajini star said he was moved by the misery of people living with chronic renal failure. He was sure that he could make a "one per cent difference" and dedicated himself to supporting TANKER, an NGO that provides subsidised long term maintenance dialysis.

Charitable trust

Suriya will lend not merely his face for the cause, but also his funds. Come April 14, 2006, he will operationalise a charitable trust with a corpus of Rs.1 crore to help organisations and individuals in health and education.

"I will talk about TANKER, I will link the foundation on my website, do documentaries and radio spots," the actor told mediapersons. In April, he would outline the full range of activities supported by the Suriya Charitable Trust.

Suriya said he was inspired by Telugu star Chiranjeevi who had built a blood bank "that is as magnificent as his house." Chiranjeevi promoted donation of blood by offering to be photographed with donor fans. "He started with 25,000 donors... now it has become 525,000 donors," said Suriya.

Expressing concern about the lack of good health care access in southern districts, he said, "I am keen to see some facility for kidney patients come up in Madurai or its outlying areas. I would say even Coimbatore is better off."

He will help such a unit and other such efforts with money that he makes out of acting in advertisement films and cinema. To a question whether he would avoid endorsing "harmful" products, he said if the reference was to soft drinks, then he would only like to say that they were safer than the water that people usually drank. "Really harmful products will be banned anyway," he said.

Suriya's role in promoting health awareness has grown after his encouraging experience with a short film that he did for the organisation REACH, on Tuberculosis.

TANKER, which has so far done 23,000 dialysis procedures, is looking for a corpus of Rs. 5 crores to halve the cost of dialysis to Rs. 250 and start more units, said Latha A. Kumaraswami, the foundation' s managing trustee.

Dr. Georgi Abraham, founder trustee, said there was a need to destigmatise renal failure. In the United States, even HIV positive people with renal failure were able to get dialysis.

At least 2.5 lakh people die of kidney disease in India every year, he said.