Foreign carriers blamed for Jaffna AIDS cases

[TamilNet, Friday, 02 April 1999, 18:49 GMT]
(NEWS FEATURE) Jaffna's fourth positively identified AIDS patient died yesterday at his residence in Neduntheevu. The person who had worked abroad was admitted to the Jaffna Teaching hospital in May last year. HIV tests in Colombo and Jaffna had revealed that he was suffering from advanced stages of disease. Doctors discovered that his wife, a teacher, was also infected. The patient and his family were given medical advise and sent home. He died early morning yesterday.

The person had insisted to doctors and a journalist who interviewed him that he had contracted AIDS either through intravenous blood transfusion in Brazil where he had met with an accident while employed on a ship or in Nigeria where he had his teeth extracted.

He has four children two of whom were born after he found work abroad.

Doctors said that the two younger children will have to be tested for HIV at a later stage.

A social worker in Jaffna who is familiar with the case said that the children suffered enormously due to the social stigma attached to the disease.

The first Jaffna person known to have died of AIDS was an engineer from Valikamam. He died in 1985 in Switzerland where he was resident at the time. His body was flown to Colombo and then to Jaffna in a sealed box and was cremated under the supervision of health officials there.

The first AIDS patient died in Jaffna in 1988. He too had worked abroad - in Uganda for six years. He was admitted to the Jaffna hospital with the symptoms of the disease in September 1988.

The man, 44, from Karaveddi in Vadamaradchi was tested HIV positive and died three weeks later. His wife was also diagnosed with AIDS. She died three weeks ago said medical sources in Jaffna.

The second person who was HIV positive was from Manipay and died in the early nineties and the third, from a suburb of Jaffna town, died in mid nineties. Both had lived and worked abroad.

A social worker cited the case reported three years ago of a Jaffna youth who had come to Colombo from abroad to marry, fell seriously ill and died in hospital, tested HIV positive. The bride with whom he had co-habited for a few days following marriage committed suicide.

A medical officer in Jaffna told TamilNet that some AIDS patients were reported among the refugees who fled in the mid eighties to Tamil Nadu. He said no one knew what came of these, whether any of them had been among those who came back to Jaffna years later.

The Uthayan paper reported last year that medical officials in Jaffna were considering a plan to test all expatriates returning to the peninsula on holiday or to settle permanently for AIDS.

The plan, according to an Uthayan columnist, was given up later due to considerations about its practicality.

A social worker in Jaffna who has studied the AIDS phenomenon in the peninsula told the TamilNet that a comprehensive awareness program is the need of the hour. She said that the program should reach out to the expatriate community as well.

Doctors say that the severe shortage of disposable syringes in Jaffna hospitals due to continuing SLA restrictions also poses the danger of AIDS transmission.

Doctors say that only 1/8 of the disposable syringes required by the Jaffna teaching hospital was allowed by the SLA last year.

A medical officer said that there has been no improvement in the situation at all.

The Jaffna teaching hospital had to put up notice informing the public to bring their own syringes to avoid problems as a consequence.

The government has taken little interest in the matter despite several appeals, particularly about the danger of HIV spread lamented a senior health official.

 

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