A south Calcutta-based network of HIV-infected people will hold 20 street-play performances in the next six months as part of a project funded by the West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society.
“We have identified high-risk zones like Sonagachhi, Rajabazar and Bowbazar in Calcutta and other parts of the state, where the plays will be performed by 11 of our members — five men and six women, over six months,” said Khitish Mondal, the president of the South 24-Parganas wing of Bengal Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
In Calcutta, the plays will be held in January.
“The guidelines of the society identify red-light areas and meeting points of labourers and heavy vehicle drivers as high-risk zones,” Mondal added.
The official figure of the number of HIV-infected persons in Bengal in 2006 is around 3,610. Senior officials of the society believe the figure is “grossly optimistic”.
“At best, the figure can only indicate the enormous penetration of HIV into Calcutta and its adjoining areas. Most of the patients were diagnosed during routine tests after they fell sick. A clear picture cannot be obtained unless the people at risk come forward and get their blood tested,” said an official.
According to him, hundreds of infected people have not been detected because of a lack of awareness and fear of ostracism.
“In this light, the street play project, which will cost about Rs 1.34 lakh, assumes significance,” added the official. “It will spread awareness so that those infected with the virus understand the importance of coming out in the open without fear and improving the quality of their lives. It will also help us to draw a proper map of the disease in Calcutta and other parts of the state.”
“We hope the project will boost our fight against HIV/AIDS,” said R.K. Sukla, the project director of the society. The plays are being funded under the Information, Education and Communication activities of the society.