Red Ribbon Express tour ends, but long road ahead to curb AIDS

December 2nd, 2008 - 12:46 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) The Red Ribbon Express, a special train that has spread awareness among people about AIDS for over a year, concluded its journey here Monday after traversing 27,000 km across 24 states, but India has a long way to go to control the virus that has so far infected 2.5 million people.“It’s a phenomenal success to create awareness and dispel discrimination through the train campaign. There is a long road ahead, but we will certainly achieve success,” Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said in a concluding event Monday evening.

The express travelled 27,000 km across the length and breadth of the country and halted at 180 stations in the past year. After touching the lives of over 6.23 million people, the train returned to Delhi’s Safdarjung railway station. It was flagged off Dec 1, 2007 by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

India is home to 2.5 million HIV positive people, including over 70,000 children below the age of 14. Among those infected with the disease, there are a whopping one million women.

“Through our sustained effort and targeted intervention, we have managed to arrest the spread of AIDS in some states,” Dayal said.

Taking a leaf from US president-elect Barack Obama’s campaign slogan, Dayal said: “Yes, we can (control AIDS), and we will.”

National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) director general K. Sujatha Rao said the train provided counselling to over 1.1 million people and over 68,000 local authorities were imparted training on board the Red Ribbon Express.

With several medical facilities and three theatre groups, the train mobilised people’s minds in many rural hinterlands where knowledge about the disease was very limited, she said.

“The train journey has just concluded but we will keep our fight against AIDS. After this 365 days of a special campaign, we will use our experience (gained during last year) to start mass campaigns in other fields as well,” Rao added.

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