India marks World AIDS Day; Sonia flags off Red Ribbon Express

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New Delhi, Dec 1 (UNI) Around three million people in India are currently living with HIV and are carriers of HIV without even being aware of their status, experts said as Congress President Sonia Gandhi flagged off a specially-designed seven-coach 'Red Ribbon Express' that will traverse across the country spreading AIDS prevention messages.

The occasion was the observance of the 20th 'World AIDS Day'.

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, who was also present on the occasion , announced that his ministry will also run another train for the same purpose.

UNAIDS called the world leaders to keep HIV/AIDS at the top of the agenda and accelerate action at the national and local level to contain the spread of the dreaded disease.

In a message to mark the 20th World AIDS Day, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said any slackening of leadership would be fatal as the epidemic had reached global proportions precisely because it took so long for the world to act.

In Mumbai, the Health Communication Partnership at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Progams (HCP/JHU) has come together for the third consecutive year with the 'Dabbawalas' of Mumbai to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and encourage people to access counselling and testing services, to mark the 'World AIDS Day'.

A unique train 'Red Ribbon Express' has been put on tracks on this day, under a nation-wide campaign to spread awareness against the dreadful AIDS in more than 42,000 villages of Madhya Pradesh.

The train, conceputalised on the line of the Lifeline Express, will cover 166 districts with a total of 180 stoppages and network with 42,760 villages in 22 states in a year, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan Vice President Meenakshi Natarajan told reporters in Bhopal.

The Red Ribbon Express is a joint venture of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghatan (NYKS).

On this occasion, Vajra Corps organised a workshop in Jalandhar for the young troops of the station with less than ten years of service.

The workshop was organised on the theme of 'Stop AIDS: Keep The Promise' by Vajra Corps' Station Health Organisation (SHO) for defence personnel, which was attended by 210 personnel from different station and outstation units.

Inaugurating a workshop for commune and village panchayat leaders, on the occasion in Puducherry, UT Tourism Minister Malladi Krishna Rao said 50 per cent of the HIV possitive people belonged to the age group between 15 and 25.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy urged all sections of people to voluntarily undergo tests for HIV/AIDS in order to reduce social stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-infected people.

The Chief Minister, who had himself taken the lead by undergoing the test, along with Speaker K R Suresh Reddy and other legislators, said the stigma was slowly fading away with as many as 15 lakh people undergoing the tests in the last 11 months as against five lakh in the previous 11 months.

Mr Rajasekhara Reddy and State Health Minister S Chandrasekar distributed awards to non-governmental organisations, doctors, officials and teachers for their outstanding contributions in fighting the dreaded disease.

Goa had taken the pledge to reinforce global efforts at fighting the HIV/AIDS while observing the Day.

The day was marked with the conduct of a blood donation camp and a function at the Porvorim secretariat complex presided over by Health Minister Viswajeet Rane where the authorities took pledge to fight the scourge.

Tamil Nadu Health Minister M R K Paneerselvam participated in the 20/20 cricket match, organised by Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), which was played between politicians and people living with HIV/AIDS.

In Tamil Nadu, Local Administration Minister M K Stalin flagged off a van, that would carry informative pamphlets and banners on HIV/AIDS and its prevention, to various public places in the city.

UNI

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