Red Ribbon Express: Uniting India Against AIDS
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Red Ribbon Express: Uniting India Against AIDS

The bicycle outreach teams have been able to mobilise the maximum number of visitors in the Red Ribbon Express railway campaign.


Jyoti Rao

Hyderabad, 17 May 2008: Traversing 13 states and 92 railway stations across the country, the colourfully painted Red Ribbon Express arrived on schedule, at the Secunderabad Railway Station on Saturday 17th May, to yet another cheerful welcome.

A two-day massive awareness and counseling programme is planned during the train’s halt in Hyderabad. Sports and film personalities have been mobilized to support the promotional activities. The train will depart for Kurnool via Vijaywada on Sunday night.

Mr. M.S. Rana, the CEO of the Red Ribbon Express said, “The response is just overwhelming. We are welcomed everywhere by thousands of people at each station.”

Possibly the largest mass mobilization campaign undertaken anywhere in the world, the Red Ribbon Express (RRE) is a joint initiative with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in the lead, supported by eight ministries of the Indian government, UNICEF, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and several civil society organizations. 

According to data analysed since its launch on 1 December 2007 until the 15th of April 2008, the railroad campaign has covered 10,766 villages blazing a trail of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention along its route.

Its longest sojourn yet has been through the state of Uttar Pradesh, where it halted for 29 days at 22 railway stations and reached out to 576 villages through its bicycle and bus outreach teams.  In UP alone, the RRE covered a total of 2,278 villages and mobilized 637,039 people.


A total of 2,663,863 visitors have been mobilized by the combined train, bus and bicycle caravans of the RRE. The highest percentage of visitors is from the age groups of 11 – 20 years (46 percent) and 21 – 30 years (27 percent) — one of the prime focus groups, as is well known are Young People, who also account for nearly 1 in every 3 HIV infections in the country.

The highest number of visitors was mobilized by the bicycle caravans. The cycle caravans are divided into six groups each taking six different routes. Each cycle caravan visits 6 villages a day while each team of two buses visits 30 villages in a day.

An analysis of the gender breakup shows that only 30 percent of all visitors are female. Most of the women were from urban areas and from schools, colleges and institutions.

In all states, the highest rate of visitors was from amongst secondary school and college students (56 per cent).

There are plenty of printed materials and literature, in different languages, for distribution to the visiting public.


In terms of counseling, a total of 48,325 persons have received counseling, with the highest number 15,597 being from UP.

Again, women receiving counseling has been in the range of 30 percent, with the exception of Assam, which turned in 37.7 percent of women receiving counseling services.

Cultural programmes such as song and drama/street plays are staged at the stations and in the villages by the volunteers.  Literature in the form of brochures and pamphlets on HIV/AIDS and other public health issues are distributed to the visitors and sensitization trainings are organized for selected groups like police personnel, nurses, youth and adolescent groups, health workers, elected representatives and women’s self-help group members.

Positive persons participate in the sensitization trainings and share their experiences.

The use of condoms is explained to men and women and condoms are also distributed.
The audio-visual facilities in the train are a big draw.

In all, a total of 418,953 IEC materials and 603,285 condoms were distributed until the end of April 2008. The highest number of both items were distributed in Bihar (124,720 IEC and 129,500 condoms) followed by Uttar Pradesh.

UNICEF has contributed the innovative design and communication elements in the train ensuring that the messages are attractive, simple and effective.  As the train travels across the country, the visuals will remain the same while the language changes 11 times over.

The total budget for the Red Ribbon Express is approximately US$ 6.25 million (Rs. 25 crores). UNICEF’s contribution has been approximately US$ 1.2 million (Rs. 4.8 crores).

After NACO, UNICEF is the single largest contributor to the Red Ribbon Express.

Halfway through its historic journey, the Red Ribbon Express has put the fight against HIV/AIDS firmly on track by helping to break the silence around the subject and making it everybody’s business to know about AIDS.



Red Ribbon Express flagged off

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