Third Red Ribbon Express to spread AIDS awareness planned (Lead)

December 1st, 2010 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) The second Red Ribbon Express, after criss-crossing the country, concluded its AIDS awareness journey in the capital Wednesday to mark World AIDS Day. The government said it is contemplating a third such train with more facilities.

The train, which was flagged off from Delhi on Dec 1, 2009, concluded its journey in the national capital after visiting 22 states and halting at 152 railway stations, covering over 22,000 km across the country.

Taking a look at the train, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said a third Red Ribbon Express may be as beneficial as the previous two, an idea that was echoed by Minister of State Dinesh Trivedi.

“The health minister while taking a look at the train suggested that we should have a third Red Ribbon Express, which will be a great idea,” Trivedi said.

The health minister lauded the success of the express, and said India is the first country to take up such an initiative.

“India is first to have such an initiative. Now some of the most developed countries are doing similar programmes,” Azad said.

In its second phase, the RRE carried a message of awareness against AIDS, as well as other diseases like TB and malaria, provided HIV testing and counselling facilities on board, as well as general health and maternity counselling.

“We added new facilities to the Red Ribbon Express in the second phase. While the first phase was only bout creating awareness, the second carried counselling and testing facilities for AIDS and other diseases as well,” Azad said.

According to health ministry officials, the train has reached over 80 lakh people, and tested and provided counselling to over 35 lakh people.

Meanwhile, a senior National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) official told IANS that the focus for the coming year will be on increasing diagnosis and treatment facility.

“Increasing the reach of diagnosis and treatment facility to the affected is on the fore of the policy,” said a NACO official.

The NACO is a division of the health and family welfare ministry that provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programme in India through 35 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Societies.

“NACO is pulling up resources. The requirement is huge and we have a number of programmes on our hands,” the official told IANS.

The diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in children and treatment is another major challenge, he said.

“Detection, treatment and counselling for children suffering from HIV/AIDS is another major issue we have taken up for deep consideration. For this, a conference on Paediatric HIV is being conducted Dec 1-3 in the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital,” the official said.

AIDS programmes in the country are at present being run under the National AIDS Control Programme III, which focuses on spreading awareness about preventive measures and extending treatment facilities.

Condom promotion and distribution has been one of the biggest focus of the programmes, which also lays stress on information dissemination.

India is among the countries registering a downfall of nearly 25 percent in the number of HIV/AIDS cases, according to the latest United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report.

This is in tune with the global figures which show that new HIV infections have fallen by nearly 20 percent in the last 10 years, AIDS-related deaths are down by nearly 20 percent in the last five years and the total number of people living with HIV is stabilising.

India is home to 2.3 million AIDs patients.

–Indo- Asian News Service

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