Alarming increase in HIV positive casesAugust 7, 2013, 10:43 pm
By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
Medical experts yesterday said that HIV positive cases continued to show an alarming increase in Sri Lanka.
Director of the Health Ministry’s National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP) Dr. Sisira Liyanage told The Island that homosexuality was partly responsible for the prevalent rate of HIV and AIDS in the country.
Dr. Liyanage said that the country had witnessed an increase in reported cases of HIV and AIDS this year.
According to him, 90 new HIV positive cases had been reported during the first six months of this year. It was an increase compared to the 81 new cases reported in the same period last year, Dr. Liyanage added.
Around 64 children who were HIV infected at birth were among the HIV/AIDS patients in the country, he said.
Every mother to be should voluntarily should have her blood tested, he said. "It is was the only way to stop children from being infected with HIV at birth."
Dr. Liyanage said that the government aimed at achieving a zero level of those getting infected by the deadly virus by increasing public awareness.
According to statistics, an estimated 4,200 people were infected with HIV in 2011. In 2012, 432 cases were added. The cumulative AIDS-related deaths upto 2012 was 283. An estimated number of 35,000 to 47,000 female sex workers were in Sri Lanka with 8,332 in Colombo alone, Dr. Liyanage said.
Meanwhile, AIDS Foundation Lanka (AFL) Director, Dr. Sarojani Perera told The Island that consistent increases in HIV infections in Sri Lanka could not be reversed without appropriate interventions.
"Currently, the HIV problem in Sri Lanka is very high though the prevalence is estimated at less that 0.1 percent," Dr. Perera said. "Having multiple sexual partners is increasingly common among young people in their 20s and 30s and all these contribute to the high rate of infection."
Dr. Perera stressed that the country had witnessed a dramatic increase in cases of HIV with four to five new cases recorded per week during the current year. "The nature of the HIV epidemic has changed. Transmission is still primarily through unprotected sex, but infections are now mostly through same sex transmission."
Dr. Perera said that most males and females ended up having sexually transmitted diseases or HIV due to infidelity and complacency.
Most of cases were reported from the Western province, but other provinces were vulnerable as victims had not come forward to have their blood checked for HIV/AIDS, Dr. Perera added.
Dr. Perera said an appropriate response to halt the spread of HIV was to impart sex education to the youth with special emphasis on prevention strategies such as delaying first sexual encounters and to conduct nationwide awareness campaign.