AIDS Foundation of Lanka commemorates World AIDS Day 2017.


Dr Sujatha Samarakoon

Consultant Venereologist and President AIDS Foundation Lanka

World AIDS Day is an annual event celebrated worldwide since 1988 on the 1st of December to refocus and raise awareness among the People, as well as in the Government and other Allied Agencies which augment the efforts of the State, to sustain with increased vigor the drive to curtail the relentless spread of the infection.

The disease which was officially recognized as AIDS in 1981 in the US, has becomes incethen, a global epidemic sparing no country from its devastating path. The disease caused by the HIV virus originated in the Sub Saharan Countries in Africa before it rapidly spread its tentacles worldwide. Recent figures from UNAIDS indicate that in 2016 there were 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, of which 1.8 million were kids under age 15. In that year alone 1.8 million new cases were diagnosed of which 150000 were children and 1.1 million had died. An estimated massive 35 million had died of the infection since the beginning of the epidemic. These statistics serve to portray the magnitude of the problem and to those in charge with the responsibility of minimizing the spread of the disease and bringing it under control and to realize the daunting task ahead of them.

Thus, the World Aids Day affords an opportunity to governmental institutions, affiliated agencies and other supportive organizations to refocus and address the challenge by assessing the progress they have made, formulate new policies and programs in accordance with advances in epidemiology, scientific knowledge and technology, strengthen existing mechanisms and provide technical support. The 2017 World AIDS Day theme is "Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships". This envisages that the resources set apart to slow the spread of the HIV virus be managed effectively, competently and economically without waste to end AIDS by 2025. To this end, programmes should be monitored to ensure transparency and accountability.

Over the years, sustained effort along with new approaches to address the challenge, have shown positive results around the globe. Prevention is the key strategy targeting the most at risk populations by providing appropriate information regarding the disease and it’s transmission, its status in their country and worldwide, avoiding risky behaviors including risky sex and avoiding injecting drugs and sharing needles and syringes. The best way to diagnose HIV is to get a HIV blood test done after a risky sexual exposure. The main mode of transmission of HIV is through unsafe sexual contact with a person whose HIV status is unknown therefore adopting safer sexual practices is vital. The challenge to the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV to achieve the global goal of "Born free of HIV".

The AIDS Foundation of Lanka (AFL) was established in 2oo8 after the 8th International Conference on AIDS in the Asia and Pacific (ICAAP) with the general objective to partner and support the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in order to meet the challenges in prevention and control of HIV and support people living with HIV (PLHIV) and their families. It is a non-profit organization registered under the Sri Lanka Companies Act.

This year AFL, to mark the World AIDS Day will be conducting culturally appropriate HIV /AIDS education programmes for out of school youth in partnership with the Rotary Club of Colombo and the Sri Lanka Scouts Association. A program for women empowerment is organized in Moratuwa in partnership with Merril J Fernando Foundation and Zonta club 11. The Principal, staff and students of Alethea School Dehiwala has agreed to hold a Children’s day for children affected with HIV/AIDS which will help AFL efforts towards improving the quality of life of children infected and affected by HIV. AFL has developed information and communication messages on HIV testing to be displayed at public gatherings, workplaces and hospitals to promote HIV testing and link to treatment and care. This is to the support the government strategy of early placement of patients on ART to achieve viral load suppression which reduces mortality and improves quality of life and also spread of HIV in the community.

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