The boon and bane of the Internet is that it forgets nothing. And you never know when something can suddenly resurface on the World Wide Web, stirring up a storm with no context whatsoever. And we know enough instances that information being circulated would be lapped up without confirmation by unsuspecting Netizens just because something simply appeared on their timelines. The recent case of such untoward resurfacing was an AIDS awareness pamphlet printed by the Punjab State Aids Control Society (PSACS), which ridiculously states that AIDS can be contracted by shaking hands!
According to the single page pamphlet published by PSACS, which was written in Gurmukhi script (Punjabi), a person can contract Aids by shaking hands with an infected person, by using utensils used by an Aids infected person, by coming in contact with devices like mobile phones, computers used by an infected person and by using toilets used by an infected person.
All myths that this pamphlet was intended to dispel, it ended up propagating. But the irony is that this pamphlet is NOT recent, and was recalled within a few weeks of being printed over two years back. It’s not known how the pamphlet’s picture came back into circulation online, and not only caused many to rage on social media platforms such as Twitter, but also made headlines on several websites.
Pavan Rekha Beri, joint director (IEC), PSACS, Chandigarh, told indianexpress.com, “One lakh pamphlets were published in the last week of December 2014, and 5,800 had been sent to various districts before the mistake was realised.” In January 2015, PSACS sent a circular recalling the pamphlet and asking centres not to distribute it further. Now, in 2017, much their worry, a copy of the pamphlet has resurfaced on the Internet and they are yet again in the line of fire.
Beri went on to say that they have neither been able to identify who committed the initial mistake, nor who shared the misprinted pamphlet now, which has gone viral. In a era, where misinformation spreads like wild-fire, such false notions about a deadly disease and that too from an esteemed organisation, will only add to the existing discrimination towards those who are suffering from the disease.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Punjab’s health minister Brahm Mohindra said, “We are investigating the matter how the pamphlet has surfaced again after a long time. I am told that few years ago, soon after the mistake was found the department had stopped the circulation.”