beggars in eastern India have been recruited to help stem
the spread of the HIV virus by singing songs and acting in
plays about safe sex.
Officials in the
impoverished state of Bihar say they want to train many
of the state's estimated 100,000 vagrants to sing songs in
trains and buses and beside busy roads as well as
enact street plays about the deadly virus.
great actors and very creative," Vijay Prakash,
Bihar's welfare secretary, told Reuters. "They always had
the skills, but lacked direction which we are giving
them. and the experiments have so been very
India has the
world's highest HIV/AIDS caseload with 5.7 million infected
people, according to the United Nations AIDS agency. But
activists say the true figure may be much higher as
surveillance is limited in much of the country.
official figures, just 1,078 people from Bihar's population
of over 83 million are infected with the virus -- although
AIDS campaigners say infection rates are grossly
The new recruits
will be paid a few hundred rupees for their work.
In India, beggars
are regularly seen singing popular Bollywood songs and
folk songs in crowded trains and buses to solicit money.
"Some can dance
very well, and we hope our training program will help
them earn a living," Prakash said.
If the project is
successful, officials plan to recruit beggars to
promote awareness of diseases like polio and malaria.