The Federal Health Ministry in India is putting together plans for a train that would create awareness about AIDS as its winds its way through the length and breadth of thousands of villages across the country.
The train would educate people about the killer disease and also offer them treatment, a top Health Ministry official said.
The ministry plans to mobilise many youths in rural areas in the massive effort.
"Though, we have launched AIDS awareness campaign in villages earlier too, this is the first time that the ministry is embarking on this scale to take the battle against HIV to semi-urban and rural areas and in innovative like this," the official noted.
With the number of AIDS cases touching nearly three million, Health Ministry believes that the train would give an impetus to the battle against AIDS by covering almost all states, including the most vulnerable states such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, UP and Bihar.
Mayank Agarwal, joint director, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) said, "We have identified 180 stations where the train would halt. Once the train stops, doctors and paramedics traveling by the train would fan out to villages and camp there for a days stretch, educating people about AIDS. The team will also try to enroll youths of the villages to become volunteers."
The train will have seven air-conditioned coaches equipped with hi-tech gadgets. There will be counselling, examination and medicare, rest room, kitchen and an auditorium.
It is expected to be flagged off in December from Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula.
After completing its mission that could last at least a year, the Red Ribbon Express would return to where it started.
The Federal government has launched a Rs 11,585 crore AIDS control program to fight the menace and says it wants to reverse the tide of HIV epidemic in the country by 2011.
It is also working to enact a legislation to check discrimination against HIV positive persons.
The first HIV positive case in the country was detected way back in the eighties in Chennai in southern India. Since then, AIDS is spreading its tentacles in every state.
Nearly 40 million adults and children are infected worldwide.