The Governor of Jharkhand addressing the inaugural function
Ranchi, 17 February 2008: On its journey across northern India, the Red Ribbon Express, carrying information, educational and communication materials, and messages on HIV/AIDS, arrived in Ranchi on Saturday, 16th February 2007.
Governor of Jharkhand, Syed Sibtey Razi received the train at Ranchi Railway Station and used the event to speak about the plight of children living on the railway platforms and those working in hotels and dhabas, describing them as a high-risk HIV/AIDS group.
Large numbers of people – young and old alike – thronged the railway platform, queuing up to enter the exhibition train and imbibe the experience.
On Sunday, even bigger crowds surged at the railway station, turning the atmosphere into a festive one. Some enjoyed the puppet show organized by the Bhartiya Lok Kalyan Sansthan while others participated in a quiz competition organized by the Song & Drama Division of the Directorate of Field Publicity.
Earlier in the week, in a curtain raiser to the much-awaited train, the Jharkhand State AIDS Control Society (JSACS), the State Health Department and United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) State Office for Jharkhand organized a media-orientation workshop on Tuesday, 12th February to highlight the role of mass media in addressing social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and in sensitizing other segments of the population to the plight of HIV victims.
A short film, called Kaanu: the Footballer, depicting the touching story of a talented young football player, who was ostracized by his community after he discovered that he tested HIV positive, was screened at the workshop.
Two positive persons shared their own experiences and helped put a name and face to the reality of living with AIDS.
Pradeep Kumar, the project director of JSACS, said, “Ignorance and misinformation often create a brouhaha about HIV/AIDS. Through mass media, a behavioural change can be gradually brought about. Changing the preconceived notions about AIDS is the only preventive measure that can put a red signal to the virus.”
Addressing members of the workshop, Harinarayan Singh, Resident Editor, Hindustan, stressed the need to select proper words and language when referring to HIV-positive people so that society learns to accept them and not discriminate against them.
A senior journalist addressing media persons at the orientation workshop
The Health Secretary Mr. S.P. Sinha echoed this sentiment, “Media should come out with positive stories in order to inculcate confidence amongst people to come forward for testing” he said.
The Red Ribbon Express is a nationwide mobile railway campaign aimed at mainstreaming the issue of HIV/AIDS and break the silence around the issue. It was flagged off on 1st December 2007 from New Delhi by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) party of India and Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav, Railway Minister. The train will halt at 180 stations across the country during its year long journey.
It crossed through Jharkhand from 16 to 23 February covering 4 districts starting with Ranchi.