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

She said the Red Ribbon Express Phase-I showed that “we are on the right track because of the appreciation we got from the people.”

Tackling the HIV epidemic was a high priority for the Centre because the disease mostly affected the poor and the young, Ms. Gandhi said. The Red Ribbon Club had brought together departments nationwide, and stakeholders — from elected representatives to self-help groups at the district level — to meet this challenge.

Ms. Gandhi went around 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 the World AIDS Day is ‘Universal Access And Human Rights’ and the train fulfils this message of ensuring universal access in the context 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 take care of those affected by it through treatment and care.”

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “The train is going to give information on how to prevent HIV/AIDS, where to get 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 Red Ribbon Express is being implemented by the National AIDS Control Organisation, the National Rural Health Mission, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, the Ministry of Railways and UNICEF, among others.

The eight-coach train will provide on-station activities through exhibitions and displays. Off-site communication activities will also be taken up.

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