National Policy to fight AIDS to be launched

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

After a four-year study the Ministry of Health is to launch the National AIDS Policy (NAP) to fight the HIV virus, which is gradually increasing in the country.

AIDS has claimed 220 lives and 1317 cases have been reported since the first case was detected in 1986. The highest number of cases of 582 were reported from 2005 to 2009 compared to 310 cases from 2000 to 2004. Last year 121 HIV cases were reported with the majority from the Western, North-Western and Central Provinces. The most vulnerable age group is between 19 and 50 years.

The Health Ministry’s National STD/AIDS Control Programme Director Dr. N. Edirisinghe said Sri Lanka is vulnerable to the spread of the HIV infection due to many factors including tourism, travelling overseas for employment and education and the increase in high risk groups including female sex workers, homosexual males and those taking narcotics by injecting themselves.

“The main objective is to prevent HIV infections through effective strategies aimed at reducing sexual transmission, mother to child transmission, transmission through blood and to improve the quality of life of those infected by STD/AIDS,” he said.

“The use of condoms will be promoted among the high risk and key vulnerable target populations,” he added. Pointing out that 47 children in the country were HIV infected by birth, Dr. Edirisinghe said the sad scenario was that 80 percent of the women were infected by their marital partner.

Surveillance, monitoring and evaluation, HIV testing, counselling, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, safety in health care settings, prevention and control of other sexually-transmitted infections, addressing rights issues and issues related to HIV/AIDS infected persons at work places are some of the areas addressed in the policy.

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