30 year old Somen Debnath has had an extremely eventful nine years travelling around the world on his bicycle to spread awareness about AIDS, and will not complete his epic odyssey until 2020.
In Afghanistan, Debnath was a captive of the Taliban for 24 days, he narrowly avoided bomb blasts in Iraq and in several countries he was mugged. Originally from India, his trials and tribulations have not deterred him from trying to visit 191 countries by 2020 – clocking 200,000 kilometres – and he is currently in the Middle East nearing his 80th country.
Debnath was only 14 when he read an article about a HIV positive villager cast out to die near his hometown of Kolkata; when subsequent questioning of his school teachers could not provide him answers about the virus, he went to the West Bengal State AIDS Control Society and at 16 he was educating his teachers.
“AIDS-related stigma and lack of knowledge about this deadly, yet preventable disease motivated me the most. My mission was to spread awareness first to people from my village, then my country, and now it is a global campaign,” Debnath said.
Having graduated in Zoology, he began his journey in 2004 with only 422 rupees (about £4.70) covering India, raising awareness amongst sex workers and living with tribal communities. Despite some terrifying experiences, Debnath has been amazed by the warmth and hospitality he has encountered.
Somen Debnath’s incredible dedication to raising awareness highlights the lack of knowledge many individuals have. If you would like to know more about HIV transmission you can read the Better2Know webpage, and if you think you may have put yourself at risk of contracting HIV then it is essential you get tested. Better2Know provide several types of HIV test to suit your individual needs at clinics across the UK.