'Red Ribbon Express' Project Reaches Millions
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India launches world’s largest social mobilization campaign against HIV
Sonia Gandhi flags off the Red Ribbon Express on World AIDS Day
Seven coaches carrying HIV prevention messages will traverse over 27,000 km making 180 halts, covering 166 districts across the country, reaching out to crores of people in over 50,000 villages for scaling up ground level mobilization activities.
New Delhi, 1 December 2007: World’s largest mass mobilization drive, the Red Ribbon Express (RRE) was launched at New Delhi’s Safdarjung Railway Station, on the World AIDS Day today. The Red Ribbon Express, a specially designed seven-coach train, endeavors to generate a national movement against the HIV epidemic. The train, the icon of this mass mobilization campaign, was flagged off today by Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Hon’ble Chairperson, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and United Progressive Alliance in the presence of Shri Lalu Prasad, Hon’ble Minister of Railways and Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare and several dignitaries.
Conceptualized by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, and implemented by NACO, the Red Ribbon Express is a multi-sectoral project aimed at spreading awareness on HIV, promoting safe behavioural practices and fighting stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Ministry of Railways, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports) and UNICEF are the other main partners in this initiative. Over its yearlong journey, the train will traverse over 27,000 km covering 180 stations holding programmes and activities in over 50,000 villages across the country. Traveling with the train will be two exhibition buses and cycle caravans that will cover the peripheries of the districts reaching out to crores of people in the rural hinterland.
Commending the multisectoral effort, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the UPA, cautioned the gathering on the social, economic and developmental implications of HIV. “No disease has had such a catastrophic impact on the lives of so many millions in so short a time.” Smt. Gandhi urged, “On this day we must resolve to do everything we can, in whatever manner, to save lives and reach out to all those who are living with this infection”.
There are an estimated 25 lakh people living with HIV in India. The National AIDS Control Organization has undertaken specific actions to control and reverse the epidemic and its efforts have yielded significant results as is evident by declining HIV prevalence rates. The RRE has been put into action by NACO to consolidate these early gains. This multi-sectoral initiative on wheels, it is envisaged, will bring together peoples’ representatives, programme functionaries, opinion leaders, media, civil society and citizens to offer a coordinated response to the HIV epidemic in India.
Signifying its commitment towards people living with HIV, the government also announced provision of free 2nd line treatment in two centres of the country. “Our commitment to reach one lakh persons on Anti-retroviral therapy has been achieved. We are now getting ready to provide second-line treatment to those who have may have developed resistance to first-line drugs,” declared Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare. Tambaram Hospital in Chennai and JJ Hospital in Mumbai would provide free of cost second-line drugs to those below the poverty line. As we gain confidence in providing good quality care, access to second line treatment will be expanded.”
Pledging the support of the Ministry of Railways to the Red Ribbon Express campaign, Hon’ble Union Minister for Railways, Shri Lalu Prasad said, “The Indian Rail network serves as the ideal route to roll-out a mass mobilization initiative intended to reach every nook and corner of the nation. We stand proud and committed to be partners in this initiative that is unprecedented in its scale and well conceived in its objective of raising awareness against the HIV epidemic.”
The Red Ribbon Express Campaign has been designed to include, on-platform and off-site communication activities for maximum outreach and impact. The gamut of activities include publicity to mobilize people will be carried out through radio, TV, newspapers, outdoor activities three days prior o the train’s arrival at the station. On platform activities, include a welcome ceremony, an exhibition and cultural performances on the platforms in addition to the media interactions for putting the state of the local epidemic and preventive measures undertaken.
Over the last six months, not only have more than 500 people worked relentlessly from the government and partner agencies to make RRE a reality but during the passage of the train a vast human resource base will be trained along its route. These include 65,000 key influencers with outreach to the communities, 8,500 implementers including district collectors and block development officers, and 5,000 youth volunteers who would be working at mobilizing the communities on the ground. Cycle and bus caravans will travel along with the train to cover the far-flung areas. During halts, cultural troupes traveling in the train will disperse in six groups to selected villages in the districts. Over 30,000 local cultural performances reaching out to more than 30 million people are scheduled to be witnessed by rural population across 24 twenty states in nine languages.
For additional information, please contact:
Mayank Agarwal, Joint Director, IEC Division, NACO