A Report: CHOICE—HIV/AIDS INITIATIVE’s massive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign at 32nd Kalachakra, 2O12 Bodh Gaya, Bihar
By: Tenzin Dondul, Project Coordinator - CHOICE
‘‘HIV AIDS is now widespread in Tibet. Including Lhasa, in many cities in Tibet, Tibetan youngsters are involving into commercial sex worker, especially those from rural Tibet who are illiterate, ignorant and unaware of this disease. Being completely ignorant about AIDS and not knowing the precaution measures makes this disease vulnerable to them. Learning the precaution measures without any shy or hesitation will halt the growing impact of AIDS in our community. If we don’t pay special attention to it now onwards or a time might come when it gets out of control. ’’ (text translated from video message in Tibetan language)
Pursuing His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s message, CHOICE—HIV/AIDS Initiative finds Kalachakra 2012 an important venue to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS to the huge number of Buddhist devotees from around the world. Also new arrival Tibetans from Tibet whom CHOICE consider in higher risk group due to Chinese’s deliberate policies and influx of huge Chinese migrant instilling high numbers of prostitution business in Tibet.
Keeping in mind of His Holiness’s advice we endeavored to distribute as much of free HIV/AIDS information leaflets and free CHOICE campaign DVDs containing message and concerned revealed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, former kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Ripoche and former Health Kalon Mr. Chope Paljor Tsering of central Tibetan Administration.
CHOICE team of Mr. Phuntsok Chomphel (Project Officer) and Mr. Tenzin Dondul (Project Co-ordinator) headed from dharamshala to Delhi on 23rd Dec, 2011.
On 26th Dec, 2011 CHOICE team received the 3 boxes of information leaflets and 6 boxes of CHOICE campaign DVDs from Norbu Graphics, Lajpat Nagar, Delhi.
CHOICE—HIV/AIDS INITIATIVE produced more than 35,000 information leaflets on Basics of HIV/AIDS, which were supported by Ms. Andrea Bennett (HIV/AIDS specialist Nurse, St. Stephens Hospital and long time CHOICE supporter). The information leaflets were both produced in Tibetan and English Language integrated with basic information on HIV/AIDS, how to abstain and protect from getting infected etc. In Delhi, we brought loud speaker which was highly useful in attracting people throughout our awareness campaign in addressing our issues during kalachakra.
CHOICE—HIV/AIDS INITIATIVE’s campaign DVDs were sponsored by Mr. Dawa Tsering, proprietor TARA TIBETAN BEADS, who is also Chair-Person of CHOICE and member of parliament of Central Tibetan Administration. With his kind donation of Rupees Forty Thousand (Rs. 40,000) we were able to produced two thousand DVDs that was to be distributed free of cost.
From 31st Dec, 2O11 to 12th Jan, 2O12.
Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee granted special space near temple to CHOICE along with other social welfare organizations.
From 09: 00 am team members of CHOICE, Mr. Phuntsok Chomphel and Mr. Tenzin Dondul set up the CHOICE’s information booth, exhibited free distribution items of CHOICE’s Campaign DVDs and information leaflets of basic of HIV/AIDS (In Tibetan and English language), Tibetan Delek hospital leaflets on HIV/AIDS (over 5,000 leaflets), organization’s brochures, Stickers (promoting HIV test, stop AIDS and CHOICE logo), Free Condoms (6,000 male Condoms and 500 female condoms), stay negative pens, red lockets promoting HIV testing and condom use, books on HIV/AIDS and bookmarks promoting use of condom.
Starting from 4th Jan 2012, when the main teaching began, the entire venue was over crowded, it was impossible without our volunteers to set up information booth. Thankfully CHOICE’s volunteers wake up by 05: 00 am in the morning and set up the information booth. By 08:30 a.m. all the CHOICE team gathers to distribute all the free information items.
We laid special focus on distributing information leaflets that includes the Basic facts about HIV/AIDS and prevention methods. As thousands of devotees pass by to visit and circumambulate the holy Buddha shrine, CHOICE team members and volunteers disseminated by handing information leaflets and DVDs on HIV/AIDS. Alongside announcement were made frequently through the loud speaker about all the availability of free distributions materials at CHOICE’s information booth.
During the congested gathering where devotees sit and listens His Holiness teaching, team members of CHOICE gained huge success in reaching maximum number of devotees to let them read about basic facts about HIV/AIDS by distributing both the English and Tibetan version of information leaflets.
Before heading to Kalachakra, Mr. Kalsang, counselor of TCV Gopalpur School invited CHOICE for a Penal Discussion on HIV/AIDS. After the panel discussion Mr. Kalsang conveyed students desire to join CHOICE as a volunteer during kalachakra event. From 2nd Jan, 2012 Mr. Tsewang Yeshi and Mr. Sonam Dhargyal from TCV Gopalpur School joined CHOICE team as volunteers. Later on 5th jan 2012, two more students from TCV Gopalpur, Mr. Tashi Phuntsok and Tashi Dhundup also Joined. They were very cooperative and sincere in every assignment they were given by members of CHOICE. Ms. Fleur Carter an Australian lady who helped CHOICE in editing its annual magazine in mid 2010 and her friends Mr. Mark and Mr. Paul’s also offered their spare time to in distributing information leaflets on HIV/AIDS.
On 4th and 5th, Jan 2012 after the whole day awareness campaign, CHOICE team projected the campaign Video and other HIV/AIDS related movies on a big screen so that crowd could clearly understand our campaign activities. We were overwhelmed to see huge crowd came up to see our videos. Until 12th Jan, 2012 CHOICE team and volunteers executed untiring campaign from morning O8:3O to till evening 7:30.
5th Jan 2O12
After usual awareness campaign in our information booth, at 05:00 pm CHOICE’s team member Mr. Phuntsok Chomphel (Profect Officer / Executive Secretary) and Nurse Tsering Paldon (Vice – Chairperson -CHOICE/ Public Health Manager, Tibetan Delek Hospital) gave workshop on HIV/AIDS to members of Regional Tibetan Women’s Association organized by Central Executive Committee of Tibetan Women Association (TWA).
The workshop began by Ms. Dolkar Lhamo President of TWA, who gave brief introduction of CHOICE and welcomed CHOICE team. Followed by screening of CHOICE’s campaign video featuring His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama's message on HIV/AIDS, former Katri Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche and former Health Minister Chope Paljor Tsering's speech emphasizing on the exigencies and the threats faced by Tibetan people from HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Phuntsok Chomphel introduced CHOICE—HIV/AIDS Initiative and recall brief history of its initiation with the urgency to set up an HIV/AIDS organization to disseminate awareness to the Tibetan people about growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the Tibetan communities in India, Nepal and Tibet. Elaborating on CHOICE’s aims and objectives, he enlighten audience about all those awareness campaign adhered by CHOICE in the last 5 years of CHOICE as an organization.
Ms. Tsering Paldon conducted the main educational workshop as all participants were female. The workshop was executed through Power Point Presentation on the basics of HIV/AIDS and delves in simple way to educate the participants on various aspects of the disease namely; difference between HIV and AIDS, four major modes of infection and prevention methods, etc. She also spoke in detail about how the disease is spreading among the Tibetan community in exile through unhealthy sexual behaviors and lack of preventive knowledge and precaution.
Most importantly, Ms. Paldon urged the female participants to imbibe healthy sexual behaviors and use condom whenever encountered with strangers. She also stressed, that "Ironically the condom which is meant to be used as contraceptives and birth control is the only preventive solution for the saving of hundreds and thousands of Tibetans from being killed by HIV/AIDS epidemic.
She enlightens the participants by informing that in India itself, HIV/AIDS is killing many Tibetans every year. Clarifying that we are promoting use of condom because we are simply urging people to save oneself from strangers and HIV infected people. We are simply saying that we need a healthy Tibetan race free of HIV/AIDS." In her concluding remarks, she stressed on the need to go for HIV testing and knowing ones HIV status as a first step to fight against this dreaded disease.
Finally she stressed on the need to avoid and wipe away discriminations against the HIV patients and encourage them to come out without hesitation through community support and acceptance. She quoted numerous incidences of discrimination faced by Tibetan People Living with HIV/AIDS in the past few years due to myths and lack of proper knowledge about HIV/AIDS in our community. Only by accepting the HIV/AIDS patient and supporting them can eventually wipe away the cases of HIV/AIDS that looms large to threaten the very Tibetan race, stated Ms. Tsering Paldon.
9th Jan 2012:
One of the volunteer, Mr. Sonam Dhargyal’s relatives came from Kham province of Tibet and along with them came many members of village who were staying in the reception centre camp at Bodh Gaya. He shared his idea to Mr. Phuntsok Chomphel of organizing an educational talk on HIV/AIDS and Mr. Chomphel welcomed his idea to host a talk on behalf of CHOICE to those village inhabitants from Tibet as it further fulfills CHOICE foremost aim to aware as many as new arrival Tibetans from Tibet.
Mr. Dhargyal used CHOICE powerpoint presentation in Tibetan in order to reach the target audience. Fortunately, Mr. Dhargyal's fluency in kham was an advantage part for us to let participants understand the issue clearly.
As Mr. Phuntsok was call for an urgent meeting by Nurse Tsering Paldon (Vice – Chairperson -CHOICE), he let Mr. Tenzin Dondul (Project Co-ordinator- CHOICE) to give the introductory speech on his behalf.
As usual the workshop began with the screening of CHOICE’s campaign video featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's message on HIV/AIDS, Fomer Katri Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche and former Health Minister Chope Paljor Tsering's speech emphasizing on the threat faced by Tibetan people from HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Dondul first gave brief account of CHOICE history and organization’s aim and objective. Later, Mr. Dhargyal took the session. Mr. Dhargyal first explained the basics of HIV/AIDS through power point presentation in Tibetan. His language fluency in kham dailect made the participants clearly understand the serious of the HIV/AIDS issue in Tibet and India. He explained the risk behaviors that can cause HIV/AIDS and warned the participants to be very careful when approaching for blood from Hospitals in Tibet. Mr. Dhargyal shared the facts of Chinese arising prostitution business in Tibet and His Holiness concern over the many Tibetan youngsters involving into commercial sex workers. After half an hour talk on various issues relating to HIV, he finally appealed to all the participants to convey His Holiness’s message to the Tibetans inside Tibet and step forward to end the scourges of HIV/AIDS in Tibetan communities in India and Tibet.
CHOICE extends its sincere gratitude to Mr. Dawa Tsering Proprietor TARA TIBETAN BEADS, for sponsoring two thousand CHOICE’s DVDs on HIV/AIDS worth Rs. 40,000.
Our heartfelt appreciation goes to Ms. Andrea Bennett (HIV/AIDS specialist Nurse, St. Stephens Hospital and long time CHOICE supporter) for her kind donation of Rs. 15,000 to produce the 35 thousand information leaflets in Tibetan and English.
CHOICE is also thankful to Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BTMC) and especially thank Mr. Namzay Dorjee (Secretary BTMC) who granted CHOICE a separate space to set up information booth near the shrine or Bodh Gaya temple
CHOICE also wishes to acknowledge the overwhelming support of our volunteers Mr. Tsewang Yeshi, Mr. Sonam Dhargyal, Mr. Tashi Dhudhup and Mr. Tashi Phuntsok from Tibetan Children Village School, Gopalpur. We would also like to thank Ms. Fleur Carter and her friends Mr. Mark and Mr. Paul for their time and support during CHOICE awareness campaign.