Red Ribbon Express reaches Uttar Pradesh
By Kulsum Mustafa
LUCKNOW, January, 2008: Curiosity, they say, kills the cat. But in this case it is sheer curiosity that may lead to saving many precious lives.
The Red Ribbon Express (RRE), a specially-designed seven coach train painted in bright yellow and red and carrying HIV/AIDS prevention messages, created a stir when it chugged into Lucknow’s Charbagh railway station Platform Number 9 on Saturday, 12 January.
However, unlike the usual train halt of few minutes, the Red Ribbon Express stopped for full two days in the capital of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.
There were hundreds of people from all walks of life – students, teachers, NGOs, NCC cadets, para-medical and medical staff and, of course, media – waiting to give this special train a warm welcome on the cold January morning. There were an equally large number that came to just have a look, inquisitiveness giving them an insight.
Hailed as the world’s largest social mobilization campaign against HIV/AIDS, the Red Ribbon Express, in the process of mainstreaming the HIV/AIDS issue, will cover 22 states over its year-long journey.
It was flagged off from New Delhi by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav on the occasion of World AIDS Day.
A joint venture of the National AIDS Control Society (NACO), Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, UNICEF and Indian Railways, the Red Ribbon Express is an attempt to focus the attention of the people on the preventive side of the disease and provide information on HIV/AIDS related services.
Traveling with the train are exhibition buses and cycle caravans that covered the peripheries of the districts reaching out to the multitudes. The campaign included on-platform and off-site communication activities for maximum outreach and impact.
The gamut of activities also covered publicity to mobilize people which will be carried out through radio, TV, newspapers and outdoor activities carried out days prior to the arrival of the train.
The Red Ribbon Express entered the state capital via Allahabad and will go further on its journey to Kanpur, via Jhansi, Gwalior Agra, Bharatpur, Mathura, Meerut, Saharanpur and reach Dehradun on January 26.
"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health concern. Many people, a majority of them in their prime, have fallen prey to this disease. We cannot sit back and let more meet the same fate,” said the State Health Minister, Anant Kumar Mishra, who was present at the function.
He urged all communities to shed their bias and join forces to fight the demon. The minister also made a special appeal to the media to create the right awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Uttar Pradesh is home to about 183 million people. It is also one of the three highly HIV vulnerable states, chiefly due to its high percentage of migrant labour.