November 23, 2000
Jodhpur, India -- Located on the eastern border of the Thar Desert, dust storms are common here. However, a different type of storm is about to hit Jodhpur on World AIDS Day, one the city may not be prepared for!
Jodhpur is located in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, where over 50% of the working-age men in rural areas migrate to major cities like Mumbai -- the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in India -- looking for work. They leave their families behind for all but two weeks of the year, and through extramarital and unprotected sexual relations they expose themselves and their families to HIV/AIDS.
The Association François-Xavier Bagnoud team, in a project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is working with these men to curb the impact and spread of HIV in the rural areas -- where the majority of the population live -- through family education programs and by encouraging voluntary counseling and testing at the FXB Centre for Infectious Diseases.
On December 1, 2000, when the World AIDS Day theme -- "Men Make a Difference" -- will be marked worldwide, the FXB-Rajasthan team has organized a city-wide rally in this major tourist city involving tens of thousands of students, truck drivers, politicians, union workers, housewives, healthcare workers and villagers from the surrounding rural areas to show that men can make a difference if they protect themselves from HIV.
Beginning at the Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India, where the Jodhpur Raj ruled from 1459 to 1947 (when India secured independence from the British), the march will proceed throughout the city featuring tractor-trailers with live dramatic enactments of the modes of HIV transmission, and the social activities which put Indians at particular risk.
The city will be festooned with over 500 banners highlighting prevention and education messages. Key individuals including the political, religious, and academic leaders of the city, and members of the royal family will be in attendance. Several Bollywood stars, and representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have confirmed participation. Major television channels including BBC will be covering the event and a press conference will be held a few days prior to emphasize the importance of the work with the migrant men.
Countess Albina du Boisrouvray who established the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud in 1989, in memory of her son François-Xavier, a helicopter rescue pilot who died in an accident in Africa, is the President of this non-governmental organization.