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2005-12-16-Prevention Efforts In India
ABCNews' NIGHTLINE on Wednesday as part of its ongoing series on HIV/AIDS in India interviewed AIDS advocate and actor Richard Gere during a recent trip to the country (McFadden, "Nightline," ABCNews, 12/14).
Gere in October joined Indian actors to host "A Time for Heroes," an entertainment program sponsored by the Heroes Project, which is partners with the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Avahan Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The program, which aimed to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and reduce the stigma associated with the virus, marked the launch of the Heroes Project in Southern India. The project includes celebrities from Bollywood films, sports figures, business leaders and government officials as spokespeople and aims to increase public discussion of the Indian HIV/AIDS epidemic with television, radio and print advertisements (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/24).
In the interview, Gere explained that the fight against HIV/AIDS is "deeply personal," as he has had several friends and colleagues die of AIDS-related illnesses. Gere also explained how he encouraged the Indian entertainment industry to discuss HIV/AIDS publicly.
According to Gere, it is "easy" to communicate facts, "[b]ut changing attitudes about others, changing attitudes about diseases, how we feel about each other, those are really difficult things" to change. Gere said that it is important to energize entertainers, who can "speak to people in a very direct way."
The "Nightline" segment also includes comments from Kamal Hassan, an Indian actor who participates in the Heroes Project, and Suniti Solomon, who is a leading HIV/AIDS physician in the country and who in 1986 identified India's first cases of HIV ("Nightline," ABCNews, 12/14).
The first segment in the "Nightline" series, which aired on World AIDS Day, featured Solomon discussing HIV transmission and stigma in India (McFadden, "Nightline," ABCNews, 12/1). A video excerpt of the interview with Gere is available online in RealPlayer.