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Pop idol seeks India-Pakistan unity against AIDS

By Hindol Sengupta, IANS

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Download Phir Milenge WallpapersPakistani pop star Salman Ahmad has asked archrivals India and Pakistan to join hands in fighting AIDS as the dreaded disease sweeps across the subcontinent.

"We must fight the battle together," said Ahmad, lead singer of the popular rock group Junoon that has vast swathes of fans on both sides of the border.

"For too long have we ignored the problem, refused to confront it; now we must fight and fight together," Ahmad, a UN anti-AIDS ambassador, told reporters here Wednesday.

There are currently an estimated 43 million people with HIV/AIDS in the world, with five million new cases being added every year. India, with 5.1 million HIV/AIDS cases, has the second highest incidence of the disease in the world after South Africa.

In his role as ambassador, Ahmad, a trained doctor, is trying to create culture specific messages for the subcontinent to promote better awareness.

Download Phir Milenge Wallpapers"A slogan that works in the US doesn't work in Pakistan or India," said the pony-tailed singer and lead guitarist. "In our culture, lots of people still don't talk openly about sex, so it becomes quite a challenge to talk about AIDS.

"My idea has always been to link my core message with something that the locals can quickly identify with."

That's why Ahmad told the UN to use spirituality in their slogans and posters in the subcontinent. "We are very spiritual people, everything here is linked to faith, and people believe that whatever is happening is god's will.

"That's why in the anti-AIDS poster I developed in Pakistan we used a very popular Quranic verse, which says he who saves one life saves the whole world.

"I changed that a little and said he who saves one life from AIDS saves the whole world. And it really worked because it's a line everyone is familiar with."

The idea, he said, was to push the anti-AIDS message through to the most vulnerable section, the youth, in ways they can identify with.

"Music is a great help and being a musician means young people relate to us, they are willing to listen because we are not preachy and in many ways speak their language," said Ahmad.

India's first film on AIDS "Phir Milenge" will be released later this month.


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