The Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi along with Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad at the flag-off ceremony of the Red Ribbon Exprees Train in New Delhi.
NEW DELHI, India, December 2009 – To create and increase awareness about HIV/AIDS in India, the attractively decorated Red Ribbon Express (RRE) was flagged off on World AIDS Day, 1 December 2009 by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. High level dignitaries, important cabinet ministers and the Chief Minister of Delhi were present at the flag-off event.
The Red Ribbon initiative targeted at young people and women has been conceptualised by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and implemented by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Railways, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“UNICEF is happy to have partnered with NACO in this ambitious project that reached more than six million people throughout the length and breadth of India in its first run. The innovative, interactive exhibits in the train engaged audiences, particularly women and children, giving them a better understanding of the issues relating to HIV and AIDS,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF India Representative
“The overwhelming response that the Red Ribbon Express received on its year-long journey led to NACO's decision to run it for one more year and UNICEF's decision to support this unique initiative once again. I am sure that it will be successful in taking the message of HIV prevention to many more people across the country,” Ms Hulshof added.
The initiative supports the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 6 (combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) and aims to prevent HIV infections among young people by increasing knowledge about transmission, prevention and heightening the perception of risk associated with HIV.
The ten-coach Red Ribbon Express also aims to encourage people to adopt safe behaviours and to reduce stigma and discrimination that prevent people from accessing services.
Red Ribbon Express to cross 22 states, stop at 152 stations
The RRE in its year-long journey will travel through 22 states in India stopping at 152 stations.
On its first journey in 2008, the RRE covered 27,000 kilometres and reached around 6.2 million people through the activities held on the train as well as through outreach activities in the surrounding villages. Almost 200 districts and more than 10,000 villages were covered by the outreach programme.
While a total of 119,064 people received onboard counselling and health education, 68,244 people received on-board training and sensitisation on HIV. Another 8,725 people received treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Young people, women focus of RRE
The highlight of the Red Ribbon Express this year are its four exhibition coaches, three of which are focused on HIV and AIDS awareness and the fourth one on the National Rural Health Mission with an exhibition covering issues such as malaria, tuberculosis, H1N1 and reproductive and child health services.
Sensitisation sessions for different groups of people such as health workers, men in uniform, Panchayati Raj members and teachers among others will take place in the auditorium coach. Counsellors and doctors will be available in the services coach to provide counselling, health check-ups, medicines and referrals.
Young people are the focus of UNICEF’s preventive programme and a great deal of effort has been put into at ensuring that the train speaks the language of young minds.
This smart train includes computer games, bioscopes, plasma screens, telephones and other devices, all of which are designed to appeal to a wide range of visitors, particularly the young and including the non-literate.