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India seeks novel
ways to tackle AIDS

India seeks novel
ways to tackle AIDS

From tapping into the national obsession with cricket to using advertising slogans on soft-drink bottles, India is employing a variety of methods to promote HIV prevention messages. In the world's second-most populous nation, condom use is still low, and most HIV cases are in rural areas.

In July the country's National AIDS Control Organization introduced a bold campaign in newspapers asking cricket-crazed Indians to save their "wickets" and not lose their "stumps" to AIDS. To illustrate the point, the advertisement featured three cricket wickets covered with condoms, a significant departure from more conservative TV ads like the one featuring Indian captain Rahul Dravid wearing a helmet and asking people to protect themselves.

S.Y. Quraishi, NACO's outgoing chief, says his agency is in talks with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to have the soda giants put generic messages like "For an AIDS-free India" on bottles destined for rural areas. "Fighting HIV is a national cause," said Quraishi. "We need to get the message across and want to piggyback on Coke and Pepsi," he said, adding that NACO also wants to send packs of condoms with crates of soft drinks to stores in rural areas.

NACO, which has come under fire in the past for its sluggish response to HIV prevention, said it is ready to push the envelope of what is socially acceptable in order to get the message across. "Some people may be shy, but you have to get them to talk about sex and AIDS," said Quraishi. (Reuters)

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