Rajiv Gandhi Foundation chairperson Sonia Gandhi flagged off the Red Ribbon Express Phase-II from the Safdarjung railway station here to mark World AIDS Day on Tuesday.

Speaking on the occasion, the UPA Chairperson said the Red Ribbon Express Phase-I clearly indicated that “we are on the right track because of all the appreciation we got from the people.”

Stating that the HIV epidemic was a high priority for the Central Government because the disease predominately affects the poor and the young, Ms. Gandhi said the RRE had succeeded in bringing together different departments at the national level and diverse stakeholders from elected representatives to self-help groups at the district level to meet this challenge.

Ms. Gandhi took a round of the various coaches, sought information on several of the display panels and even accessed the helpline before flagging-off the train.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit said: “This year the theme of World AIDS Day is ‘Universal Access And Human Rights’ and the train fulfils this message of ensuring universal access in the contest of human rights. I feel that AIDS prevention is of critical importance and I am sure this train will take this message all over the country and teach people how to prevent this disease and to take care of those affected by it through treatment and care.”

Also present at the event was Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. “The train is going to give information on how to prevent HIV/AIDS, where to go to avail of services and who to count on for counselling and testing. Between 2002 and 2007 we succeeded in drastically reducing the number of people affected by this disease and I believe that with more and more information reaching people we will see a very definite decline in numbers in this country.”

The RRE is being jointly implemented by the National AIDS Control Organisation, National Rural Health Mission, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Ministry of Railways, UNICEF and other stakeholders.

While the eight coach train will provide on-station activities through exhibitions and displays, various off-sites communication activities will be undertaken alongside to ensure maximum outreach and impact.

More In: Delhi