The Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K.S. Sripathy on Wednesday inaugurated the Red Ribbon Express rail exhibition aimed at generating awareness on HIV AIDS at Coimbatore North railway station.

He also flagged off a fleet of 12 vehicles that would visit rural areas to spread awareness on HIV AIDS.

He was accompanied by Mayor R. Venkatachalam, Rural Industries and Animal Husbandry Minister Pongalur N Palanisamy, Project Director of State AIDS Control Society Shambu Kallolikar, District Collector P. Umanath, Corporation Commissioner Anshul Mishra, Dean of Coimbatore Medical College Hospital V. Kumaran, Deputy Director of Health, S. Senthilnathan, District Programme Manager, Mohammed Ali and others.

The Red Ribbon Express with seven exhibition coaches would give answers to questions relating to HIV AIDS and tips for a healthy life.

The exhibition included health tips, safe sex practices, pictures and depictions of the tales of victims.

The train would be halting at Coimbatore North on March 24 and 25 and at Salem Junction on March 26 and 27.

The train on its first leg since the flagging off on November 1, 2007 had covered more than 27,000 km, 166 districts and 50,000 villages.

In the second phase it was flagged off on December 1, 2009 from New Delhi to cover 156 railway stations across 25 States before ending its journey in December 2010.

Campaign

The Red Ribbon Express is the largest social mobilisation campaign against HIV, conceptualised by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, National AIDS Control Organisation and is a multi-sectoral project aimed at spreading awareness on HIV and 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.

Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society Project Director told reporters that Salem had the highest number of cases in the State followed by Namakkal, Karur, Tiruchirapalli and Chennai.

The total number of people with HIV was reported to be around 1.84 lakh.

Through sustained campaign and efforts the prevalence rate had been brought down from 1.5 per cent to just 0.5 per cent now.

There were 47 AIDS Rehabilitation Centres distributing free medicines and offering help to 35,000 patients.

Last year, Coimbatore accounted for 1,766 HIV AIDS patients. Since 2006 the total number of cases were said to be around 7,144.