Sri Lankan Health Official Says Strong Family Bonds, Family Values Responsible for Low Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Country
Supportive family values and strong family bonds, in addition to the practice of monogamy, have contributed to the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka, Health Care and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said recently at the second Asia Pacific Regional Meeting on universal access to HIV prevention in the Philippines, Sri Lanka's Daily News reports. The adult HIV prevalence is less than 0.1% in Sri Lanka, De Silva said. He added that at the end of 2007, the estimated number of people living with HIV was 3,500 to 4,000.
De Silva said that HIV transmission through blood and blood products is extremely low and that the country has recorded two such cases. Several million transfusions have been conducted in the country, which has adopted a strict blood safety policy. In addition, the government has regulatory oversight of blood transfusion services. According to De Silva, the male-to-female ratio of HIV/AIDS cases is narrowing and the feminization of the disease is emerging, with almost 60% of women living with HIV/AIDS having contracted the disease from their spouses.
De Silva said that the highest levels of political leadership and commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention are critical to maintaining Sri Lanka's status as one of the few countries in the world with a low HIV/AIDS prevalence. The National AIDS Council, which is chaired by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, aims to address alcohol and drug abuse in an effort to curb the spread of HIV. De Silva added that although antiretroviral drugs are expensive, the government has taken on providing them at no cost to HIV-positive people (Daily News, 8/28).