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Let's Talk HIV Prevention - Varanasi, India

This event is part of the 2011 Let’s Talk HIV Prevention series sponsored by the Enterprise. For more information about these events, click here.

City, Country: Varanasi, India
Organization Hosting Event:  Sanjeevani Booti
Date/Time:  Wednesday, 11 May / 16:00 – 18:00, plus reception
Location:  Arts Auditorium at Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India,Pin-221005

Event Report (submitted by the hosting organization):

As part of the “Let’s Talk HIV Prevention” series, commemorating HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, Sanjeevani Booti organized a

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seminar on HIV Vaccine Research and HIV Prevention funded by Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. The event brought together the general public, professors and students from local universities, local NGOs, foreign researchers and tourists to learn about the important progress the field is making in basic science, HIV and AIDS education and to discuss about the moral and ethical issues related with HIV victims. Speakers (from left to right) included Dr. Sanjay Singh, associate professor at the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Mr. Raju Manjhi, assistant professor at the Law Faculty of Banaras Hindu University, Kathleen Elizabeth Ryan, graduate in microbiology and immunology, cell biology from University of Melbourne, Australia, Lane Rasberry, Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Network Community Advisory Board, Mr. Manoj Singh, director of Banaras Network of Positive People Living with HIV & AIDS

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Mr. Ravi Kant Tripathi opened the meeting by describing the idea behind the event, general concept of HIV and AIDS education and data of people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide. Mr. Tripathi also talked about the history of HIV and AIDS in India and how the Indian government has been working on this issue. Mr. Sandeep Singh, member of Sanjeevani Booti, introduced all the speakers. Dr. Sanjay Singh was the first speaker who talked about sex and sexuality education and how it is important to the society, especially for India, where sex education is not part of the education system yet. He also talked about Indian ancient books and temples of Khajuraho which show how sex was open and considered "sacred" in ancient time in India.

Mr. Raju Manjhi talked about the reasons of the spread of HIV and AIDS in India. He gave more importance to change the social structure and implementing sex education rather than changing the sex practices. He also talked about how fundamental rights of HIV and AIDS victims are exploited. He also talked about a legal case from 1998 where the Supreme Court of India ordered to not disclose the identity of HIV victims. He also mentioned how HIV and AIDS bill has been pending in India since 2007 and how another bill to make HIV testing compulsory for everyone before getting married is pending in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Goa in India.

The third speaker, Mr. Lane Rasberry from Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Network Community Advisory Board, talked mostly

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about the HIV vaccine. He talked about the HIV vaccine research going on all over the world and the science behind it. He also mentioned how India has begun a major center for HIV vaccination research and how India is playing a vital role in it. He also talked about the concept of research and vaccine. He said that while an HIV vaccine is part of the long term solution to ending AIDS, it is not the only part. To solve the problem of HIV the society must empower its people with information about avoiding HIV and other diseases and when someone does get HIV, it must treat them with dignity, respect and compassion.

The fourth speaker, Mr. Manoj Singh, talked about the work of Banaras Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS. He said that the spread of HIV can be controlled by taking some simple steps. He told stories of a few people from his NGO who have been able to live a healthy life even after contracting HIV by seeing doctor on a right interval and keep taking the prescribed medicines. He also talked about the HIV and AIDS medicines being so expensive in the past but now its free for everyone.

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Kathleen Elizabeth Ryan, a volunteer of Sanjeevani Booti, talked about how public health system is different between India and Australia. She also mentioned that STIs are not uncommon in Australia but not very common either and it is only and only because the way people are educated about healthy sex practices and STIs. She also said that it is very difficult to understand public health system in India. 

After all the speeches a play was organized which talked about HIV and AIDS education, how even a very healthy person can contract to HIV by making small mistakes and how it can be prevented. The play was about a body builder named Majbooti Singh (Majbooti is a Hindi word which means strong) who never got sick in his whole life. There is a female character named Laaparvahi (Laaparvahi is a Hindi word which means carelessness) who tries to make Majbooti Singh careless about himself but was not able to. She contacts her King named Rogadu Singh (Rogadu means diseases) who has TB Singh, Malaria Singh, Jaundice Singh and Cholera as part of his ministry.

They all try to infect Majbooti Singh but aren’t able to as Majbooti Singh is very careful about his health. Finally they decide to send Laaparvahi who attacks Majbooti Singh and here Majbooti Singh makes a mistake and is attacked by Laparvahi who transmits HIV to Majbooti Singh and after this all the other diseases attack him and he gets very sick. After the play all the characters explained the allegory.

This event was encouraging of a local trend and interest was encouraging of a local trend for NGOs, the universities, students, and local people to all meet each other and see what the different groups are doing.

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