Indian Nationwide Train Trip To Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness Among Youth

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The Washington Post on Friday examined the Red RibbonExpress -- a nationwide train trip launched by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that over the course of one year will reach60,000 rural villages nationwide to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among youth.The project, assisted by UNICEF, was launched on Saturday in New Delhi, the Post reports(Lakshmi, Washington Post, 12/7).

The Red Ribbon Express has seven coaches equipped with medical equipment;facilities for counseling, examination and treatment; rest rooms; a kitchen;and an auditorium. Doctors, paramedics and volunteers will be on board toprovide care to youth. According to Mayank Agarwal, joint director of the National AIDS Control Organization, the train is expected to stop at180 stations across the country. Stops will include the vulnerable states ofAndhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. During the stops, the train's staff willtravel to rural areas and spend several days educating residents aboutHIV/AIDS, as well as facilitating examination and treatment, Agarwal said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/26).

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Some Indian officials say that the Red Ribbon Express "represents anadmission that the general population remains woefully ignorant about"HIV/AIDS, the Post reports. India faces a "dauntingchallenge of communicating AIDS information" in a country were discussionof the disease and ways to prevent it are considered "taboo,"according to the Post. Ashok Alexander -- director of Avahan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Indian HIV/AIDS initiative --said that the "quickest way to lose an audience" in India is to"start talking about HIV." He added, "We pretend to be moremoral than others, even though studies show the high prevalence of concurrentsexual relationships. We act as if our morality is an invisible condom."NACO hopes the train will "carry the [HIV/AIDS] message to a widerpopulation beyond the high-risk groups," NACO head Sujata Rao said."The train will force people to face the issue head on," Rao said,adding, "There is still a lot of denial about AIDS in our society."

According to the health ministry, about 80% of Indians ages 15 to 24 have heardof the disease, but only 57% correctly can identify prevention methods. NACOhas pledged about $3 billion over the next five years for HIV/AIDS programs -- including public education, blood safety,condom promotion and antiretroviral therapy -- the Post reports (WashingtonPost, 12/7).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.

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