Salman for raising awareness about Aids
ISLAMABAD- Salman Ahmad, the popular guitarist and composer of the music group Junoon, said the country could no longer afford to remain ignorant about the deadly Aids epidemic, which had seeped into our neighborhood.
He was speaking at the United Nations’ information centre, where he was formally appointed Pakistan’s spokesperson in the fight against HIV at the official launch of world Aids campaign 2001, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
Mr. Ahmad will be featured in a poster campaign entitled: “I care…. do you?” which is being launched worldwide by the joint United Nations’ programme on Aids (UNAIDS). At the global level, the campaign already features Kofi Annan, Danny Glover, Brazilian star Ronaldo and renowned singer Ricky Martin.
In Pakistan, about 1,787 Aids cases have been reported so far, out of which 207 patients possess fully developed disease, while 1,580 are HIV positive. The first such patient in the country, detected at Karachi in 1986, was confirmed to be having the disease at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 1987, shortly after which he died.
Explaining his association with the Aids campaign; the rock star said: “We are part of a global village and live in the South Asian sub-continent, which alone constitutes 25 per cent of the world population.”
“In my capacity as an artist and a UN spokesman, I will look at all possible means to help raise awareness about Aids”, he said, adding he would especially apprise the young generation about the devastating consequences of the disease.
Salman, who has been selected to participate in the world Aids campaign because of his popularity among youths, said he would use the powerful medium of music, concerts and discussions, to draw people’s attention towards the menace of Aids.
Explaining his slogan for the campaign saving one life from Aids is like saving the whole of humanity – he said the idea had been taken from the Holy Quran, which stressed on saving lives, irrespective of religious affiliations.
The Junoon lead guitarist said he would also engage people from the conservative class during his efforts against HIV. He said the prevention of the disease depended on spreading more awareness about it, since a permanent cure was yet to be discovered.
“We live in one world and can not remain isolated from other cultures and people, as Aids puts a greater challenge on each and every one of us to be more responsible for our personal and ‘public behavior”, he added.
Mr. Ahmad said: “In today’s world, satellite TV, Internet, mobile phones and faster means of transportation, have enabled more and more people to come in to contact with each other.” He said, unfortunately, along with people, viruses too, were able to travel more swiftly than ever before.
In a short span of two decades, he said, the HIV had decimated 22 million people and continued to infect 15,000 a day. He said nearly four million Indians were HIV positive, which was being described as an “Aids time bomb waiting to explode.”
Pakistan, to a great extent, had managed to remain protected from the sexual transmission of HIV, due to a combination of unique religious and cultural practices, but in no way should we feel complacent or safe from the onslaught of this disease, Salman said.
“From my own experience of government hospitals and medical research, I know that the sharing of needles amongst drug addicts, improper blood screening and the inadequate disposal of syringes constitute a greater danger for the spread of Aids in Pakistan”, he said. A lot of work needed to be done to convey the gravity of the situation to both the masses and the authorities concerned, he emphasized.
Earlier, the NIH executive director, Dr Athar Dil, said the government attached great significance to the campaign against HIV, and was providing 70 per cent funding in this regard.
The federal as well as the provincial governments had already prepared their feasibility reports in this context, and the blood-safety legislation was also being drafted, he added.
Dr Birjees Mazhar Kazi, the national programme manager of Aids control, said at the present pace of the spread of the epidemic, the world scenario presented a bleak future. He said by 2020, there would be 58 million cases, out of which 20 million people would have already died.
He said a recent analysis showed that 43 per cent of the Aids patients in the country had attracted the disease through sexual contacts.
The director of the UN information centre, Eric Falt, said delegates from 189 states would meet in New York for three days, later this month, in a special session of the general assembly on AIDS.