AIDS awareness campaign in West Bengal embarrasses many

Published: Saturday 15 July 2006

-- HIV/AIDS West Bengal

In the past year and a half a large-eyed, straight-talking middle class housewife in a blue saree and big bindi has been ruling the Kolkata billboards, fm radio and tv spots, much to the distaste of many a Bengali bhadrolok. Buladi, a cheery, jhola -carrying, stuffed doll, is the mascot of West Bengal State aids Prevention and Control Society's (wbsaps) beefed up hiv / aids awareness campaign.

The outspoken and largely popular Buladi, who makes statements like "only condoms ensure a healthy sex life" and "have fun but responsibly, always carry a condom" is about to have her mouth washed with soap. Following complaints from certain schools that the content of advertisements were objectionable, the Left Front government has ordered wbsaps to change them to omit "offending words" like "condom" and " sangam", wbsaps is none too pleased and has publicly declared that editing the advertisements would undermine their campaign against the killer virus. At a time when India has achieved the dubious distinction of outstripping South Africa as the world's largest hiv infected population, prejudice and squeamishness over word use should take a backseat, wbsaps officials say.

The issue has to be tackled head on and that's exactly what Buladi, in her blunt, yet non-threatening way, tries to do -- shock people out of their placid complacency.

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