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Speaking your mind

Revathy talks to women on the threat of AIDS and how to tackle it


IT TAKES some courage to announce to the world that one is HIV positive. Gomathy has that kind of spunk. What she also has is the ability to stand on a dais and talk about her condition without letting her emotions get the better of her.

That, actress and social activist Revathy said, was something all women had to learn. "Don't cry. Develop the mental strength so that you can say whatever you want articulately," she told a meeting of women's Self-Help Groups (SHGs) organised by the Department of Community

Medicine of the PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (PSGIMS&R) on the occasion of World AIDS Day.

The meeting, which aimed at getting social activists, NGOs, SHGs and the medical fraternity to converse on a disease growing at a tremendous pace, quite achieved its objective.

Of course, the beginning was typical. Soon, it gathered steam when Revathy spoke extempore. Her lively `no-nonsense' talk made the crowd sit up and notice what was happening.

Moving with time

"Life has changed, and we must learn to change too," she said, quoting a friends daughter who was awe-struck at seeing cows crossing bustling Chennai roads. "If a cow can learn to adapt to its new surroundings, can't we?" she asked.

The next speaker, Saratha, a chief manager with the Indian Overseas Bank, spoke about how she was refused a bank loan for calf-rearing nearly three decades ago, because she was "over-qualified."

"I did not speak and went back disappointed. Even today, only those who express themselves get noticed," she said. "Speak. Only then can you move the system," she said, to loud cheers. "Look for opportunity in everything and learn to stall obstacles."

Later, at the interesting interactive session, the dignitaries got to answer the queries posed by members of the SHGs.

Mindset change

"You tell us knowledge is important. But, when social welfare messages on HIV and AIDS and advertisements for condoms are shown on TV, the first thing our parents do is reach for the remote control. How can we change their mindset?" a college student asked.

To this, Revathy and Dr. Meera of PSGIMS&R said patience was the key. "Talk to them patiently and with love. Make them understand that these issues are important."

The members of SHGs were also told how they could go about sensitising people on the danger of HIV and AIDS. "Get rid of your koocham (bashfulness). That is the first step," Revathy told them.

SUBHA J RAO

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