Moving along the coaches and pushing against each other, while sparing little time to stop and watch the educational video and interactive pictures, visitors on the first of the arrival of the Red Ribbon Express in the city on Sunday were excited.

It was more a tour into a colourfully decorated air-conditioned train exhibition for women who had brought along their children, as they had very little time to listen to the demonstrations or read messages.

The train creates awareness of HIV/AIDS and travels across the length and breadth of the country carrying messages.

“In Tamil Nadu, all departments are involved in mobilising people to visit the train. NSS volunteers, Nehru Yuva Kendra and self-help groups have all visited the train,” said the national coordinator for the train, Sanjit Kumar.

Coming out of the air-conditioned coaches, women admitted they knew more about the syndrome.

“I thought HIV was not very dangerous and was like any other virus. Now I will tell my husband also more about it and preventive measures,” said B. Alli from Ashok Nagar. The telephone kiosk drew considerable excitement as curious visitor picked phones to hear pre-recorded awareness messages about AIDS.

The counselling and medical services wing of the express was also buzzing with activity.

“This year there are significantly more people visiting us for testing. It is interesting that couples are coming together for counselling,” said Shakil Ahamed S., one of the counsellor stationed in a counselling kiosk.

Health Minister V.S. Vijay inaugurated the train that arrived at the Chennai Central station. Later in the evening, U.S. Consul-General Jennifer McIntyre visited the train that has covered eight States.

The train will be open to visitors on Monday.

It will stay here for two more days for the posters to be changed to Telugu, before it continues its journey to Andhra Pradesh.

Condom-vending machine

Assembly Speaker D. Jayakumar said condom-vending machine placed in various locations in the city a few years back are no longer functional. “Around 30 machines were placed in slum pockets and near public toilets a few years ago. It is important that people are sensitised and more machines are installed in places such as Central station that has a huge floating population,” said Mr. Jayakumar.

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