A new initiative is seeking to spread awareness about AIDS among teenagers, by actively involving them in the process as “peer educators”.
In 125 colleges across the city, 250 students are spreading awareness on how HIV infection is caused, the importance of condoms, and ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Their passion is opening other students up to the concept of what has now become popular as ‘Red Ribbon Club’.
“As a peer educator, I was part of the team that organised a rally on World AIDS Day from Kandivli to Anna Nagar. We also initiated dialogue on AIDS through a blood donation camp,” said Chandrashekhar Sawant (20) a first-year B.Comm student at Prakash Degree College, Kandivli. He conducted a street play by roping in other students. “We could make out from the reactions that very few people knew in detail about the virus,” he said.
Like him, Pooja Mohan (20) has been creating awareness on AIDS for two years now in Maharshi Dayanand College, Parel. “During Ganesh Utsav, we conducted street plays at public locations and also held a poster rally,” she said.
According to Dr Shrikala Achary, project director at Mumbai District AIDS Control Society, the idea is to raise awareness on use of injectible drugs and unsafe sex practices —the two most common channels of spreading HIV — among youngsters
Two peer educators are selected in each college who then form a team, which includes the principal, and spread awareness on AIDS after undergoing training from the MDACS.
“I was part of the activities of the club from December in Wilson College. We realised that only 20 per cent of the college students we interacted with had any knowlege about AIDS,” said Raja Singh (19), a first-year students pursuing BSC (IT).
Umesh Goge, who heads the city’s Red Ribbon Club, claims that the students may have helped reduce HIV transmission in a crowd that is susceptible and would otherwise shy away from approaching MDACS or NGO counsellors.