Srinagar: Twenty-three-year old Smriti and 26-year-old Suhag, are Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constables in duty in strife-torn Kashmir.
Both are educated, sharp and dedicated towards their profession and equally eager to keep healthy and perhaps that explains why they are all ears during a AIDS awareness session that was held.
“We know AIDS is a deadly virus and it must be controlled,” said Smriti. “The doctor gave us valuable information on AIDS,” said Suhag.
Since the CRPF has taken over the mantle of counter-insurgency operation, another battle faces them: AIDS. Out of the 280 cases, nearly 12 per cent have been posted in the Valley.
There are 28 reportedly full-blown AIDS cases in Kashmir. One person, in fact, died of it last year.
Shocked by the statistics, the CRPF top brass wrote to the state government for help.
The government, in response, has launched a campaign that will cover all 60 battalions in Kashmir and 14 in Jammu.
“Security forces remain outside the houses and they come in the high risk groups like truckers and migrant labourers. With 1030 positive cases, a major percentage is tuckers and security forces,” said Director of J&K AIDS Control Society, G M Wani.
Meanwhile, the awareness drive is being appreciated by the force. “I am going to tell all the women in the battalion about how to keep safe from contracting AIDS. The things I learnt here should be discussed with young sisters so that they too are aware of the disease,” said a CRPF member, Neeru.
Though critics would say the administration has been late in acting against the spread of AIDS, the awareness drive, no doubt, is a step in the right direction.