India: children play leading role in AIDS prevention programme

 A programme on HIV/AIDS awareness, conducted mostly by children orphaned by the disease, is making waves in southern India. Arulanandam Elango SJ, head of the Catholic Mission in Darsi, in the Prakasam district, State of Andhra Pradesh, launched the AIDS awareness campaign in September 2002 as a response to the situation, where every village has an average of five AIDS cases. Through his plans, children are becoming powerful and effective teachers to villagers. A 16-member theatre group of boys and girls introduces the programme, by saying that there is no treatment for the illness and that prevention is the only cure. Their play goes on to explain facts about AIDS and the precautions that need to be taken. "People in this area commit suicide when they get to know they have contracted AIDS, and I plead with all so that such people may live," said Kunda Deepthi, 10, who is in the group. The play then portrays a dramatic sequence about the social boycott of a little girl who has fallen victim to the disease. The children involved in the programme come from St Xavier's orphanage, which welcomes 186 children in Darsi, a town of the district. The programme is a joint venture by the students of the local Jesuit school and a couple of Hindu doctors. "Our effort is open to all good-hearted people," says Fr Elango. "The future of the Church lies in collaborating with lay people and the present programme is one such 'stepping stone' for lay, inter-cultural and inter-denominational collaboration." The local authorities are happy that the Catholic Mission in Darsi has become a resource centre in the fight against AIDS. Source: Jesuit News Service

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