Home > News > Report
AIDS kills more jawans than bullets
G Vinayak in Shillong |
April 23, 2005 22:14 IST
Assam Rifles has revealed that more than 180 personnel of the force have been found to be HIV-positive, of which 32 have died of AIDS in the past decade.
Speaking to rediff.com on the sidelines of a three-day AIDS awareness campaign launched by the Assam Rifles Wives Welfare Association, Director General Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh said: "We now find more soldiers dying of HIV-AIDS than to bullets fired by militants."
Alarmed by the rapidly spreading menace, Winnie Singh, the DG's wife and president of ARWWA, conceived the idea of holding a three-day film-festival-cum-awareness drive in Shillong about HIV-AIDS among the lower echelons of the force and their families. "We have a challenge at our hands and we need to tackle it sensitively," she said.
The first case was detected in 1992. Since then, 32 soldiers have died of AIDS and 180 more are in serious condition at two treatment camps in the region.
Winnie Singh, aware that mere lecturing and pontificating will not work, roped in Hindi film stars like Shilpa Shetty, Sanjay Suri, Dipti Naval and popular channel [V] video jockey Purab -- all have acted in recent HIV-AIDS related films -- and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah.
On the first day, the celebrities interacted with an audience comprising students, Assam Rifles officers, jawans, their families and some church leaders. Abdullah, who opened the talk show, said if the onslaught of HIV/AIDS went unchecked, it could wipe out the tourism industry, be it in his Jammu and Kashmir or Meghalaya.
Two recent films, Phir Milenge starring Shilpa Shetty, and My brother Nikhil, were two among half-a-dozen films screened at the festival. Two seminars on role of Media and role of NGOs were also held to educate the Assam Rifles personnel.
The Assam Rifles is a premier paramilitary force of 55,000 troops deployed across north-east India to combat the region's 30-odd guerrilla groups waging insurgencies for independent homelands or greater autonomy.
"The force is serious about its commitment to the people of the north-east and we live up to our motto 'Friends of the Hill'. It is in this connection that we have recently appointed renowned social activist Ashish Chopra as our Social Development adviser," General Singh said.