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Thursday, March 4, 1999 Published at 11:59 GMT

All aboard the Aids train

South Africa has the fastest growing rate of HIV infections

by BBC Johannesburg correspondent Greg Barrow

South African officials are stepping aboard an Aids train to raise awareness about the soaring number of HIV infections in the country.

Greg Barrow: "On the right tracks"
South Africa now has the fastest growing rate of HIV infection in the world.

The Aids train, which sets off on Thursday, will stop at stations in six provinces, spreading the word on safer sex and the dangers of Aids as part of a campaign called "On the Right Tracks".

Delegates from the government, women's organisations and provincial leaders will all be catching the Aids train as it rolls out of Pietersburg station in Northern Province on a journey across South Africa.

It is estimated that more than 1,500 people in South Africa become infected with HIV every day, many of them in far-flung rural communities where it has been difficult to ensure that people are aware of the need to practise safe sex.

Latest figures from the Health Ministry suggest that, despite efforts to educate people about the danger of Aids, HIV infection is increasing across the country, especially among teenage girls.

Remote regions

The government hopes that, by using South Africa's extensive rail network, the urgent need to address HIV infection will be heard in some of the remotest regions of this vast African country.

The state-owned rail service, Spoornet, is sponsoring some of the coaches on the train, picking up part of the financial cost of the venture.

At the end of its journey from the north to the south of the country the train will stop in Cape Town on 8 March, International Women's Day, when public pledges will be made by ministers and civil servants to address the Aids crisis in South Africa.

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