Red Ribbon Club (RRC), members of colleges and office-bearers of the Sangam held a candle light vigil to commemorate the International AIDS Candle Light Memorial Day, which falls on the third Sunday of May every year. The theme of this year is “Together, We Are the Solution”.“The day is used as an opportunity not only to remember those who have died but also to remind ourselves that more lives should not be lost to HIV / AIDS,” said R. Meenakshi, president of the Sangam.
Ms. Meenakshi had been living with HIV for the past 12 years. She lost her husband to HIV / AIDS. She maintained that people who died of HIV / AIDS early on in life did more so because of the lack of awareness that they too could live a long life if they possessed the necessary awareness, followed the right precautions and adopted the required lifestyle.
“We want to use this day to pledge that nobody should mourn for us tomorrow like we do for them today. Increasing longevity for HIV / AIDS affected people by ensuring they receive proper treatment, providing peer counselling, organising support group meetings and providing need-based advocacy is the aim of our Sangam,” Ms. Meenakshi explained.
K. Mahadevan, Professor, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Coimbatore Medical College Hospital, who is a consultant with the Sangam, said: “Usually this day is observed with those affected with HIV / AIDS or the family members of those who have lost their dear ones. But, this year, we decided to involve the college students because the numbers of those getting affected are predominantly in the age group of 20 and 30. We want the RRC representatives to carry the message of HIV / AIDS prevention to their college mates.”
He urged the students to start the awareness drive by motivating their friends to go in for voluntary testing. They should realise that anybody could get affected. The stigma that HIV was the product of immoral behaviour had to be done away with. There were many reasons for the incidence of the virus, he added.
S. Yuvarekha, a student of Dr. N.G.P. Institute of Technology, speaking on behalf of the students said they would take all steps to motivate their friends to go in for voluntary testing. She also said that as part of the RRC activities they would visit HIV / AIDS affected people to convince them that they too could lead a considerably long life. Ms. Meenakshi said it would be a small step if those affected could become members of the Sangam. At present, there were only 1,460 members. She believed that peer counselling would go a long way in bringing hope to the lives of the affected. Those interested can contact her on 0422-4504250 / 98422-14342.