Provincial committee formed to prevent HIV/AIDS in NE

[TamilNet, Friday, 12 September 2003, 20:42 GMT]
A provincial HIV/AIDS committee is to be established for the northeast, which has the second highest incidence of AIDS victims in the country, to take preventive measures against the disease, said Dr.S.A.P.Gnanissara, a consultant to the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Project, which is funded by the World Bank, at a conference held Friday at the provincial health ministry auditorium in Trincomalee.

The North East Provincial Committee will be headed by the Chief Secretary or Health Ministry Secretary of the province and the secretary will be the Provincial Director of Health Services, according to a plan prepared for provincial authorities by the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Project, said Dr.Gnanissara.

AIDS Prevention in NE
Project Consultant Dr.Gnanissara speaking at the conference


The conference was summoned to formulate an emergency action plan to prevent HIV/AIDS in the northeast province.

National HIV/AIDS Prevention Project Consultant, Dr.H.M.S.D.Herat, said the country has identified persons who have contracted AIDS by screening Sri Lankans who return from abroad after concluding their labour contract. If the health authorities start screening all Sri Lankans in the country, more could be identified, he told deputy directors of health services (DDHS) and senior medical officials serving in the eight districts of the Northeast province who attended the conference.

However, the DDHS and other related medical officials serving in the Jaffna district did not attend the conference. The Jaffna district has the highest incidence of AIDS victims in the northeast, sources said.

The first HIV infection in a Sri Lankan was reported in 1987. By the end of 2002, the total number of persons reported with HIV/AIDS was 455. However, it is estimated that about 7200 are living with HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka, a project report said.

AIDS Prevention in NE
National HIV/AIDS Prevention Project Consultant Dr.Herat


Consultants said that more than ninety percent of cases have been acquired through sexual transmission. Only a few cases were due to transmission from mother to child (8 cases) and through blood (2 cases). Transmission through injection has not been reported so far.

Many of Sri Lanka's neighbors, such as India and Nepal, already face serious and growing epidemics. UNAIDS and WHO estimate that currently there are more than 5.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS in South and South East Asia. Although Sri Lanka has a low prevalence, the situation in the neighbouring countries makes her vulnerable, the consultants said in a project report.

"Sri Lanka presently has a window of opportunity to act vigorously to prevent a nationwide HIV/AIDS epidemic. The window of opportunity is now closing rapidly. We have to concentrate more on prevention. We should organize group discussion among the masses to impart more and more knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS," said the Provincial Director of Health Services, Dr.V.Kumaravetpillai, presiding over the conference.

Dr Kumaravetpillai said the northeast health services are hampered due to a dearth of medical officers, family workers and other employees. He said he was unsure whether the NE provincial health ministry could implement a special project on HIV/AIDS without the necessary staff.

Consultant Dr Gnanassira replied that they could launch the project with the available staff at the start.

Project Consultant Dr.Herat said the entire structure of the northeast has now changed and only ten percent of original people are living in their areas.

AIDS Prevention in NE
NE Provincial Director of Health Services Dr.Kumaravetpillai ( exteme left) with other DDHS in the province


The primary objective of the World Bank funded project is to limit the spread of HIV infection in Sri Lanka among its highly vulnerable subpopulations and the population at large, without stigmatizing those who engage in high-risk behaviors.

Project Consultants further said that the World Bank has agreed to provide a grant of 12.55 million US Dollars to assist the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in implementing the project. The total cost of the project is estimated at USD 20.93 million and the GOSL's contribution is USD 2.01 million, sources said.



AIDS Prevention in NE
A section of Deputy Directors of Healths Services serving in districts in the northeast

 

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