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HIV/AIDS has affected millions of lives all around the world. In India, the infection has been spreading very quickly, resulting in our country having one of the highest numbers of HIV infected people in the world (over 50 lakhs), second only to South Africa. Women and young people especially, have become increasingly vulnerable to the infection. More than one out of three infected people today are women, many of them housewives who have had only one sexual partner-their husbands. And over 90% of the infected are the young and working population of the country-between 15 to 45 years of age.
There are reasons for the rapid spread of the infection. Key among them is low or inadequate awareness resulting in people having unfavorable attitudes, or continuing to engage in high-risk behaviors such as unsafe sex. According to National AIDS Control Organisation (the nodal government organisation on the issue, while there is some awareness about HIV/AIDS among general Indian public, many myths and misconceptions exist. More than three in four Indians have believe that 'it cannot happen to people like them'. Further, this lack of understanding that has lead to, and compounded, the acute stigma and discrimination faced by those living with HIV.
With a population of over 1 billion, even a small percent increase in the prevalence rate will lead to millions of HIV/AIDS infected people. If proper care is not taken, India will soon face the devastating effects of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. Knowledge is our key to stopping the spread of AIDS. The need of the hour is to spread the message-of how HIV/AIDS can effect each and every one of us, and what we need to do about it. We need to break the walls of silence and shame by talking about it. Because HIV/AIDS can happen to anyone, anywhere and at anytime.
Heroes Project is a three year national initiative launched in July 2004, by Richard Gere and Parmeshwar Godrej to address the spread of HIV/AIDS and reduce stigma and discrimination by educating the public and advocating for change in policies. The founders of the project have partnered with the Avahan Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation to establish the infrastructure and technical expertise for this project.
The Project aims to involve, organize and train influential figures, including film and televisions actors, musicians, athletes, media groups and business leaders to play a key role in national and state initiatives. It has already begun to bring together celebrities and the media to educate the public and increase the involvement of key sections of Indian society in a manner that is sustained and long term.
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