As one driver through the streets of Kolkata,
one cannot miss the middle-aged and very relatable Buladi, dispensing
basic information and advice on HIV/AIDS on billboards. Buladi comes across as
a friendly and very approachable character who can deftly handle the sensitive
questions people ask her.
The campaign has been undertaken by the West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and
Control Society (WBSAPCS) to reach out extensively to the people of the state.
Developed by O&M Kolkata, it is based on the central theme chosen by the United
Nations for World AIDS Day.
Most of these women, who are confined to the four walls of their homes, are the unsuspecting victims of the deadly disease. Studies have shown that worldwide about half of all HIV victims are womem. Male to female HIV transmission is twice as likely as female to male.
“The objective of the campaign is to educate women and through them, educate their male counterparts about the realities of HIV/AIDS. The challenge was to do it in a manner that does not arouse social discord and still manages to create the necessary reaction,” said Suresh Kumar, Project Director of WBSAPCS.
The communication is targeted to both the urban and semi-urban population of West Bengal. Buladi takes the role of a social worker, enters the lives of the people and is always available on a toll free helpline 1097. In the first phase of the campaign she creates awareness and tries to break myths. In the second phase, she gets a little more personal and talks about intimate problems.
Said Jayatsen Bhattacharya of O&M Kolkata, “We needed an ambassador who is intangible but of warm deportment, whose acceptance as a friend/aunt/sister would be guaranteed across a whole cross-section of people, playing educator in an amiable and non-controversial manner.”
Sanjeev Jasani, Account Director at O&M Kolkata, observed, “Buladi being a strong and versatile mnemonic can be extended to places like never before, prompting the state body to do a full 360-degree around it.”
The plan is to take the campaign to dhabas, roadside motels and dubious hotels, as well as government hospitals and medicine shops with voluntary counseling and testing centres, urging people to check blood groups rather than horoscopes.