Collective efforts needed to check spread of HIV: Sonia

Collective efforts needed to check spread of HIV: Sonia

Indiaís ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, right, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, second left, and Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit, left, look on during the flagging off ceremony of the Red Ribbon express in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

"The disease needs collective efforts and understanding of all our people to contain it from spreading. Checking HIV/AIDS is a high priority of the government," she said at the flagging off ceremony of the 'Red Ribbon Express', a dedicated train travelling across the country to spread awareness about the virus, on the occasion of World AIDS Day.

Congratulating the officials for bringing down the number of people affected by the disease, she said the government was committed to eradicate it.
"The idea behind the train is to spread awareness about AIDS among the public and take the message to the far flung areas of the country," she said.

A project of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), of which she is the Chairperson, Gandhi said the train has got "tremendous response" wherever it has travelled in the year 2007-08, adding, "I can say, it is on right track".
RGF along with NACO started the train three years ago and it was "gratifying" to see that the idea has been a "successful reality", the Congress President said.

Noting that the virus hits the poor and the young in their prime, Gandhi said the Red Ribbon Express will go a long way in reaching to them along with the message of AIDS and other diseases like swine flu, diabetes, lifestyle problems and spread awareness about the National Rural Health Mission.
She said the train was very important in a knowledge driven society like ours and pointed out that at the district level, it has blurred political affiliations and people were coming out to support it.

To Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's remark at the function that politicians tend to speak too much but do not deliver, Gandhi said, "That is why, I will be short (in speech)".
Speaking on the occasion, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said numerically India had the third largest number of HIV patients but expressed satisfaction that the number of patients had declined by 4.30 lakhs from 2002 to 2007 due to the efforts of the government.

He said the Red Ribbon Express has travelled to 24 states and UTs and halted at 180 stations in the first phase and benefited 62 lakh people.
He also said that there were 5000 centres in the country where tests and counselling is done and that 2.4 lakh patients get free medicines. "The target is to spread awareness about the disease and what treatment is available."
Banerjee emphasised on the importance of the Red Ribbon Express and praised former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for his focus on socio-economic development and a modern India.
Praising Rajiv, she said, "When he was murdered, an institution was murdered. He has a vision for the country and stood for the modern".
Banerjee said the Railways also plans to run a Commonwealth Express train to popularise the sporting extravaganza, scheduled next year.

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