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1december20093Dharamsala: To mark World AIDS Day, the Tibetan Department of Health and local NGOs organized a "Run for AIDS" and painting competition this morning at the main temple complex in Mcleod Ganj.

Students from the lower Tibetan Children's Village (TCV), Tibetan Transit School (TTS), Norbulingka, Ghopal Phur TCV, and Sarah College participated in the race, along with some independent foreign and Indian competitors. In total, there were about 40 runners.

Before the race began, Mr. Sonam Choepel from the Department of Health gave a speech on HIV/AIDS and read a message by the Tibetan Health Minister. Guest of Honor Tenzin Choezom, Miss Tibet 2009, followed with a request that Tibetan adults pay attention to the danger of HIV/AIDS and take care to always use protection during sex. Then, Mr. Lobsang Darjee introduced the race route and painting instructions in Tibetan and English, and Ms. Tenzin Choezom cut the tape to begin the race.

The contestants ran uphill from the temple, through Mcleod, and along Bhagsu Road to the town of Bhagsu, then returned to the main temple. Mr. Gelek Jampa, from the Ghopal Phur TCV, came in first, finishing the 6k race in under 20 minutes. The first woman was Choekyi, also from Ghopal Phur TCV. The winners each received cash prizes, and free AIDS Day t-shirts and red ribbons were handed out to runners and non-contestants alike.

The number of people around the world living with HIV or AIDS has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33.4 million today, and is still growing. This number includes 15.7 million women and 2.1 million children under the age of 15.

1december20094South and Southeast Asia is the world's second most affected region, after sub-Saharan Africa, with a total of 3.8 million adults and children suffering from the terminal illness.

There were 2.7 million new cases of HIV worldwide in 2008, and two million people died from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses last year.

As yet, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but it is easy to prevent the spread of the virus by using condoms during sex and never using needles that have been contaminated by another person's blood.

World AIDS Day began on December 1st, 1988, as a way to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS around the world.

The Tibetan Health Department worked with Tibetan NGOs including Kunphen, the Tibetan Women's Association and the Organization for Animal Freedom to put on today's events.

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