| Buladi, the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign mascot
After a two-year innings, Buladi is ready to bow out. The doll in a sari that had become the face of the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in the state will soon be taken off the billboards. The television and radio spots she featured in have already been withdrawn.
Buladi first made her appearance on December 1, 2004. She was soon a fixture on billboards, prime-time television and radio, warning people about the dangers of unprotected sex.
“The Buladi campaign is off television and radio. Very soon, she will disappear from the billboards, too,” stated West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society project director R.S. Shukla. The annual bill of the campaign came to “more than Rs 1 crore”.
The society, however, has kept open the option of reviving the campaign. “If we need Buladi’s services in future, we will take her help,” said Shukla.
Elaborating on the reason for the withdrawal of the campaign, an official said: “Most of the AIDS awareness funds are going to high-risk states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, AIDS awareness in Bengal has reached an optimum level.”
A worker in an NGO involved in AIDS prevention said: “Thanks to Buladi, even the rural population knows about AIDS. The campaign had a wide reach because it was in vernacular. We knew it was going to be for a limited period of time.”
He warned: “There could be repercussions of withdrawing the campaign. Earlier, when there were problems in accessing the helpline mentioned in the advertisements, people had concluded it was not meant for the general population. Buladi’s messages were also not structured to address schoolchildren.”
The campaign was marked by controversies. Buladi was accused of gender bias and encouraging sex among youngsters. Most schools resisted her entry into classrooms.