The Red Ribbon Express (RRE), with a cargo of information about HIV/AIDS arrived here to a rousing reception on Thursday.

The train, which began the second phase of its nation-wide run on December 1, entered the State on March 14 at Nagercoil.

Since then, it has attracted over 1.22 lakh visitors during a journey through the heartlands of Nagercoil, Virudhanagar, Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Coimbatore, Salem and Virudhachalam.

Addressing a function to accord a reception to the RRE at Chennai Central, Health Minister M.R.K. Paneerselvam said incidence of HIV was on the decline in the State as a result of focussed government intervention and public awareness.

People's response to the awareness train was phenomenal and exceeded expectations.

Health Secretary V. K. Subburaj said the State was spending about Rs.100 crore every year on HIV/AIDS management.

This year, the train was also putting the spotlight on issues such as TB.

Jothi Nirmala, Project Director, Chennai AIDS Prevention and Control Society, Bimal Charles, project director and Sathyabhama, Chennai Deputy Mayor, were among those present.

According to the organisers, the eight-coach train has covered 3,442 villages in 10 districts in the State.

While over 3,278 men and 1,296 women received counselling, about 570 persons were given treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

The aims of the RRE are to disseminate information on prevention, develop better understanding about infection to reduce stigma and discrimination and motivate people to adopt preventive health habits and lifestyle.

The target groups are the rural and semi-urban youth, women's groups, out-of-school youth in communities, members of village health and sanitation committees.

The RRE will be stationed on Platform 11 at Chennai Central for public view between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday before leaving for Andhra Pradesh.

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