Over 30 million people live with it worldwide and it has killed an estimated 2.1 million people, (including 330,000 children) over the years. Infection rates are sharply on the rise in Asia and it is predicted that the death toll in Africa alone, could reach 90 – 100 million by 2025.
The numbers cannot be ignored – the AIDS pandemic is undoubtedly one of the deadliest diseases of our time. While the statistics of AIDS in Sri Lanka maybe a mere speck in the bigger picture, it cannot be dismissed lightly.
In an effort to shape perspectives and create awareness, the Interact Clubs of St. Peter’s College and St. Bridget’s Convent launched the “AIDS Awareness Campaign, 2010.” The campaign is a revival of the extremely successful annual project by the Interact Clubs of both schools, last conducted in 2007.
The campaign began with a series of workshops based on the theme ‘It’s your right to know and choice to be free’; “mainly to make the general public more aware” explains Angelo Weerasuriya Co-Project Chairperson from St. Peter’s College. The workshops were carried out in Colombo, Galle, Anuradhapura and Jaffna. “The response was very good,” says Angelo, explaining that for one of the first times the workshops were conducted in the North, by both Interact Clubs.
The workshops were carried out by experts in the field, who approached the subject in a holistic manner. Speaking to the Mirror Magazine, a committee member explained that while making the public aware and emphasis on the prevention of AIDS were key objectives, the situation of a person infected with HIV and how society views and ostracizes them was also highlighted upon.
Looking at the situation from the point of view of a person infected with AIDS was a new experience for audience members, as it explored the emotional aspect of the disease, which is often ignored. Brochures were also distributed among the audience, as prevention through education is a key aspect in controlling the spread of infection.
With the conclusion of the workshops, the campaign will end with a walk and fun fair scheduled to be held soon. Intended to promote awareness among youth, an introduction about AIDS will be held before the commencement of the walk. With Triton, Debtors and Billy scheduled to play at the fair, food stalls, games and a DJ , the fair will be a fitting finale for the project. Stalls aimed at educating the public about AIDS will also be set up at the venue.
“It’ll be fun and educational,” says Angelo, “And it’s for a good cause” adds Gimhani Kathriarachchi, Co-Project Chairperson from St. Bridget’s Convent.