HIV positive cases:
Social stigma, main hindrance to proper treatment
With plans to have more local and foreign tourists to the North and
East after the defeat of the LTTE, the health authorities stressed the
need of educating the public on sexually transmitted diseases, including
|* HIV/AIDS prevalence
rate - 0.1 %
* Estimated number of HIV positive - 4,000
* Total number of HIV positive cases since
1985 to 2009 - 1161
* Full blown AIDS cases since 1985 - 302
* Deaths since 1985 - 202
* Mother-to-child cases - 42
* The number of HIV positive recorded this
year - 110
* Number of HIV positive males - 58%
* Number of HIV positive females - 42 %
Though there is no significant increase in HIV/AIDS cases reported
among the displaced and resettled people of the North and East, the
gradual increase in the new HIV infected cases has tiggered an alarm
among the authorities to focus their attention on the North and East.
The National STD/AIDS Control Program (NSACP) Director, Dr. Nimal
Edirisinghe told the 'Sunday Observer' that new sexually transmitted
Diseases (STD) clinics have been opened in Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya
and open new clinics in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu shortly.
"Yearly we are getting newly infected people. And we can not say
whether the number of HIV positivist are definitely increasing or not",
He said that due to an awareness on the disease, setting up of STD
clinics with improved facilities and providing antiretroviral therapy
for HIV infected persons, the infection rate has been controlled to some
Worldwide, the life span of HIV infected persons has prolonged due to
the antiretroviral therapy. "Now the HIV positive patients are living
longer than earlier. At the beginning they thought their lives had just
ended with the disease but now antiretroviral drugs have prolonged their
lives", he said.
Nearly 190 HIV infected people, whose C4 count is below 200 per micro
litre, receive getting antiretroviral drugs.
Dr. Edirisinghe said that the main challenges for Sri Lanka in
keeping the disease at bay were by promoting alternative safety measures
like using condoms in unprotected sex and warding off the social stigma.
"Still there is a taboo among the people in promoting condoms. But it
is a vital tool in prevention of HIV/AIDS", he said.
He said that danger was that the other sexually transmitted diseases
were on the increase and the authorities and the public could not
overlook the issue easily though the country records a low HIV/AIDS
The social stigma still hinders the HIV positive from stepping into
STD clinics. "This will lead the 'hidden HIV positive' to infect more
This stigma also denies them coming for improved treatment in the STD
clinics", Dr. Edirisinghe said.
The NSACP Director stressed on more awareness on STDs and HIV/ADIS
among schoolchildren to prevent a future disaster. The NSACP has
successfully launched a school based awareness program targeted the
Ordinary Level students in 500 schools in Sabaragamuwa province under
the funds given by the Global Fund.
Without teaching the schoolchildren directly about sex education, the
O/L students were taught about health habits covering a range of topics
including good health behaviours and STDs.
Over 3,000 teachers in the province were trained to teach the
children and the teaching module were prepared.
Dr. Edirisinghe said that these resources could be utilized to
commence a national awareness program on STDs for schoolchildren if the
Ministry of Education offers assistance.
He said that the Minister of Education Susil Premajayanth agreed to
include lessons on good behaviour in the school curriculum, which
changes in every four years. "When changes are made all the O/L students
will be taught on HIV/AIDS at school", he said.
Dr. Shantha Hettiaracchi of the Health Education Bureau said that the
average monthly infection rate is 10 persons and still over 50 percent
of the female HIV positive infected through their husbands.
"Though there is no significant threat of a rapid spreading of
HIV/AIDS, the number of young population in the age between 25 to 35
keeps on increasing. This poses a major challenge for Sri Lanka with
there are more freedom for sexual behaviour compared to few years", he
Dr. Hettiarachchi said that there was a change in 'mode of
transmission', where the sexual contacts accounts for 96.4 percent,
mother-to-child 3.1 percent and through blood 0.5 percent. With two
injecting drug uses found to be infected with HIV in 2009, the category
of 'injecting drug users' is now added as a mode of transmission of
HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka.During the last nine months (from January to
September) 102 new cases were reported to the STD clinics.