Azmi keeps her goodwill date


There are still people who believe that HIV/AIDS infected people deserve to die... we need to work towards care for the patients.

Sorry that I am late. I could have blamed the traffic and you all would have believed me, but I went shopping like any woman and it took a bit long,” said Bollywood actor, social activist and former Indian MP Shabana Azmi as she faced the media here in Kathmandu on January 6.

Azmi, who is here in the Capital on a three-day visit to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and about the objectives of SAARC Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS and address the issues of stigma and discrimination towards the disease and patients, is the SAARC Goodwill Amabassador for Uniting against HIV/AIDS and TB. Renowned Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya is the other ambassador.

She said she was privileged to be a SAARC Goodwill Ambassador and expressed her happiness to have started the mission from Nepal, the place she visited for the first time while shooting for Dev Anand’s Ishq Ishq Ishq.

Talking about HIV/AIDS awareness Azmi said, “It’s not just a medical problem or a disease. It’s a social and cultural problem of gender discrimination and social attitude. We have seen millions of HIV/AIDS positives being reported in South Asia but more are still not aware of their status as they are suffering from social stigma and discrimination related with the disease.”

“We cannot work on stopping the disease from spreading if we cannot work on eradicating the attitude related with the disease,” she stressed.

Azmi who has been working to remove the stigma related to HIV/AIDS for the last 18 years and believes that it’s not just the lower class people who have this problem, but the middle and upper classes share their prejudice towards it. “There are still people who believe that HIV/AIDS infected people deserve to die and only truck drivers and sex workers have sex, which is completely wrong. Now apart from awareness we need to work towards care for the patients,” she insisted.

Azmi blamed gender discrimination in the South Asian region as the main reason behind the growing number of HIV/AIDS patients among housewives. “Women here don’t have the right to decision making. In recent findings we have seen that sex workers are demanding use of condom making them less vulnerable to the disease while housewives don’t have the right. They should be empowered to take decisions about their life and health,” she said.

Dr Kashi Kant Jha, Director, SAARC TB and HIV/AIDS centre and Hassan Shifau, Director, SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu present at the press meet shed light on the plans and workings of the SAARC Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS in Nepal and other SAARC nation.

Azmi also called on Girirajmani Pokharel, Misnister for Health and Population and discussed various important issues on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis for the benefit of poor and marginalised people of Nepal. She also paid visit to the Children’s Home of Nava Kiran Plus at Budhanilkantha to demonstrate her solidarity with HIV infected people.