Financial Times

Sri Lanka, low risk, but still vulnerable to faster HIV/AIDS growth

Sri Lanka remains vulnerable to a fastest rate of growth of HIV/AIDS due to the existence of high risk behaviours that can facilitate HIV transmission even thought the country is low risk nation, U.S. Ambassador Robert O Blake warned last week.

Mr Blake, speaking at the workshop on ILO/US Department of Labour – HIV/AIDS Workplace Education Programme, said a report authored by Drs Sujatha Samarakoon and Ariyaratne Manathunge, compiled since 2005 on the workplace education on HIV/AIDS, has indicated pleasing attitudes and knowledge on employment related discrimination against people living with HIV.

He said that in addition a large number of those surveyed reported using condoms and a majority of workers reported accepting and supportive attitudes towards HIV positive co-workers and workers outside their workplace. Mr Blake said these are encouraging results in a country that thus far has been able to maintain a low prevalence of HIV infection. The key partners of this programme are Ministry of Labour Relations and Manpower, Employers Federation of Ceylon, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Trade Unions, Private Companies and Lanka Plus, the network of people living with HIV/AIDS. Ms Tine Staermose, Director, ILO Colombo said that the world of work is ideal for attitudinal changes, value transformation and disseminating information relating to HIV/AIDS. She said that ILO has enhanced the capacity of employers and workers organizations, private sector, businesses, large corporates and the Ministry of Labour to implement policies and programmes for prevention of HIV/AIDS in workplaces since 2005.

The survey by the two doctors revealed that workers who report a positive attitude towards condom use has increased. In 2005 it was only 66.7 % and now that has gone upto 81.3 %. But the survey reported that in Sri Lanka there are accepted norms and assexuality and sexual issues are still not openly discussed, many people may not have the correct knowledge or facts. Nevertheless, workers have developed positive attitudes towards condoms.

An increased trend in the knowledge of workers on methods of transmission of HIV was observed and the interventions have helped to reach an optimal level with almost 98 % of the total number workers being able to correctly identify three modes of transmission, the report said. In the baseline survey, workers able to correctly identify five misconceptions regarding HIV transmission increased to 85 % from 12 % earlier.

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