Concerned over a large number of schoolgirls getting lured into the flesh trade, the state government has decided to initiate ‘Project Class’ — an educational programme on AIDS — to make schoolchildren aware about unsafe sex.
S. Suresh Kumar, project director, West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society and joint secretary of the health and family welfare department, said principals of reputed schools have urged the Society to spread awareness among students about the devastating consequences of unsafe sex.
“The fact that schoolgirls are getting involved in prostitution and also practising unsafe sex is, indeed, alarming. We have, therefore, decided to start a sensitising programme in the schools of Calcutta,” said Kumar.
In the first phase, over 100 schools in Calcutta and the fringe areas have been identified for the programme, which will start on World AIDS Day on December 1. “In the past, the school authorities, particularly teachers, were reluctant to discuss sex with children. So, we decided to send volunteers from organisations who work with AIDS patients,” said Kumar. The plan is to provide at least 20 hours of counselling on AIDS and related diseases to students of Class IX and XI.
The AIDS Control Society had recently initiated a first-ever mapping programme to estimate the number of HIV-positive patients in Calcutta and the districts. “The project is underway,” said Kumar.
According to preliminary findings, about 3,968 people, among the high-risk population in Calcutta and North and South 24-Parganas, were found HIV positive. “This is around 70 per cent of the population we have screened so far. But, once work is completed, we will have much more startling figures on hand,” officials said. In Calcutta, the figures are on the rise. Even two years ago, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital had only 10 HIV patients, but the figure is 45 now, officials said.
Apart from counselling sessions in schools, World AIDS Day will be marked by rallies, painters’ workshops, open-air concerts for youth at Millennium Park and sit-n-draw contests.