Monday, December 10, 2007

Pepsi makes the right choice on HIV/AIDS

Pepsi makes the right choice on HIV/AIDS

Beverages major, Pepsico, has joined hands with NGOs Bhoruka Public Welfare Trust and Durbar in Kolkata to spread awareness on AIDS/HIV and popularise the use of condoms among local people.

According to Sanjiv Saxena, director-east of PepsiCo, "Pepsi's biggest consumers are people between 18 and 35 years of age. This age group is also most vulnerable to diseases like AIDS. So we thought of reaching out to the masses with the help of local NGOs in creating AIDS awareness as part of our corporate social responsibility."

Since 2005, Pepsi has been engaged in training its own employees, factory workers and the truck-drivers who carry Pepsi's stocks, in AIDS awareness programmes and condom usage.

Pepsi has reached out to over 1000 truckers and employees in Kolkata with its AIDS awareness programmes. "So far, our activities were restricted to our eastern India factory at Sonarpur. But now we plan to reach out to more local people in Kolkata," Saxena said.

According to BPWT project manager Ishita Majumdar, corporate partnerships like the one with Pepsico will ease the NGO's work as Pepsi already enjoys a high brand recall .

"We will have to make less efforts to make people listen to us if a big name like Pepsi is associated with the activity," feels Majumdar.

BPWT and Pepsi plans to campaign in schools and colleges in Kolkata to spread AIDS awareness and popularise condom usage.

"Some of our campaigns could require up to Rs 30,000. For instance, we are thinking of giving diaries and telephone directories to students which would have texts on AIDS awareness. If we carry this out for 100 students, the cost of such a project works out to Rs 30,000," Majumdar said.

BPWT has a target of reaching out to 1 million people every year.

At present, BPWT is trying to create awareness about AIDS through infotainment programmes such as talking doll shows, stage shows, group meetings and games such as quiz contests.

BPWT works in the field of sexual health intervention, primarily among truckers. The sex-seeking behaviour of the truckers make them highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases which often leads to HIV infection, thus facilitating its spread.

At present, BPWT offers services for STD treatment for truckers at Calcutta Port Area in West Bengal, Guahati in Assam, Petrapole in West Bengal (Indo - Bangladesh border), Ichhapuram in Andhra Pradesh and Raxaul (Indo - Nepal border) in Bihar.

BPWT is also involved in condom promotion. On World AIDS Day on December 1, Pepsi organised a fun-fare in Sonarpur along with the NGOs where different stalls and exhibits were set up around the fair educating the public and community members.

There were interactive mobile exhibitors, puppet shows, stage shows and talking dolls interacting with the public on HIV/AIDs. A 'condom park' was also set up in a corner and there were volunteers and trainers going around the fair encouraging the crowd to come forward with their questions.

Different games through group meetings and quizzes were also organised to test the awareness of the public. Hand-woven jute, paper and other artifacts made by PLHA people of Durbar NGO working with sex workers in Kolkata were made available.

According to Majumdar, at the condom park set up at the fair, about 1000 pieces of condoms were sold in one day.

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