Staff Reporter

KOCHI: Hundreds turned up to have a glimpse of the Red Ribbon Express that chugged in to the Aluva railway station on Friday morning carrying the message of giving proper treatment to HIV-infected people.

Excitement was in the air, as a large crowd especially students from various educational institutions in and around Aluva came in good numbers to watch the exhibition on rail that halted at the second platform of the railway station in the morning.

K. Sukumaran, former Kerala High Court judge, inaugurated the Aluva leg of the train journey, which had already been to Kasaragod, Kannur, Tirur, Palakkad and Thrissur.

Stating that concerted efforts were required to fight HIV-AIDS, Mr. Sukumaran said that such awareness programmes will help in removing the doubts and stigma existing in the society about the disease. He said that the youth should be sensitised about the ill-effects of HIV-AIDS. Smitha Gopi, chairperson of Aluva Municipality, presided over the inaugural session.

The doors of the Red Ribbon Express were thrown open to the visiting public immediately after the inaugural meeting. Long queues were formed in front of the entrance coach, as enthusiastic students started watching the exhibits set up at the specially-designed interiors of the train. Volunteers associated with the programme elaborated on various aspects related to HIV-AIDS.

The public had an opportunity to use the touch screens set up inside the train highlighting simple tips on ensuring the effective management of HIV-AIDS. Volunteers also initiated a discussion on the disease by encouraging the visitors to express their opinion on the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Artistes also performed an ‘ottanthullal' on the occasion aimed at creating awareness on HIV-AIDS. The campaign is being jointly organised by the National AIDS Control Organisation, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan, Indian Railways, UNICEF and the State AIDS Control Societies. It was flagged off on December 1, 2009, from New Delhi and will cover 156 railway stations across 24 States before ending its journey in December 2010.

District Medical Officer K. T. Remani said that representatives of local bodies, anganwadi workers, self-help group volunteers and young people will be given training in combating AIDS, as part of the programme.