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Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 11:30 GMT
India's temple to the Aids goddess
The so-called 'Aids demon' in Bombay The so-called 'Aids demon' in Bombay

By Habib Beary in Bangalore

Hundreds of people in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have taken part in a highly unusual religious procession to mark World Aids Day.

The march culminated at a temple which houses the statue of the goddess of Aids.

Indian Aids facts
3.5m Indians carry the HIV virus
NGO's estimate the number is far higher
60% of Asian Aids cases found in India
India can't afford to freely distribute Aids treatment drugs
Led mainly by students and teachers from a local school, the march inspired much interest in nearby villages.

Hundreds of villagers, especially women and children, gathered in the village of Menasikyathana - about 30 km (20 miles) from Mysore - to participate in the procession.

Making its way through the winding lanes of the village, the procession finally stopped at an open air temple containing the figure of the goddess of Aids, or what local villagers call AidsSamma.

A benign deity

Believed to be a benign figure of protection, the deity is represented by a 1.2 metre (four feet) high stone slab, bearing the twin engravings of a male and female form, punctured at the centre by a symbol of the Aids virus.

School children in New Delhi raise Aids awareness About 500 school children marched in New Delhi
Students and villagers lit incense sticks and offered prayers to the goddess. One of the teachers leading the group, HN Girish, said the temple was constructed earlier this year after students campaigned for greater Aids awareness.

Mr Girish said the temple's pillars bear information capsules about the debilitating virus - tracing out in the local language the route of the infection, and tips on prevention.

At the end of the procession, students took vows to educate villagers on Aids, and to prevent the further isolation of those who are already infected.

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See also:
01 Dec 99 |  Africa
HIV warning for Nigeria
04 Oct 99 |  Africa
Africa on the Aids frontline
23 Nov 99 |  Health
HIV hits 50 million
26 Nov 99 |  Medical notes
Aids drugs and the developing world
23 Nov 99 |  Health
Thousands unaware they have HIV
01 Dec 99 |  Health
World Aids Day in pictures

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