ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s health authorities say compared to 2021, there was a 48 percent increase in the number of people living with HIV in this country in 2022.
“There have been reports of HIV infection among young people between the ages of 15-24. Last year (2022), 73 of the 607 HIV infected people detected were in the 15-24 years age group,” venereologist Dr Thilani Ratnayake said.
As there was still no vaccine or medicine developed to cure an HIV infection, early detection and treatment of the condition was key to live normally, Dr Ratnayake said at an awareness event to mark World AIDS Day on December 1.
“We have introduced self-test kits which allow those who are concerned they might be infected to do their own HIV test. Like the Covid test, this is an oral swab test. You will know the results within minutes.”
“These self-test kits are now available through our clinics, and we provide a home delivery facility.”
“In addition to this, there’s a web-based app, called Know4sure, which provides HIV information, an assessment tool to determine whether one is at risk, reservation of a clinic appointment, and the facility of ordering a self-test kit.”
Once detection is made, the next step is to prevent spreading. Dr Ratnayake said the 41 state-run STD clinics in the country all provide free condoms, at a considerable cost to government.
“By not detecting HIV early, one has to face becoming sick without knowing it, as well as infecting someone else.”
As with most diseases, early detection is key to successful treatment.
“Treatment methods have been introduced to live a normal life with the disease under control. An HIV preventive treatment called PrEP is now available under medical supervision. You can get this treatment from STD clinics all over the island. This is a very effective method for those at high risk of HIV.”
When the virus level is reduced by treatment, the possibility of it being transmitted to another person is also reduced, Dr Ratnayake pointed out.
A preventive treatment method is also available. This should be administered within 72 hours.
World AIDS Day is observed to remember those who lived with and died due to the HIV virus, to prevent marginalization of those infected, and to spread awareness about the disease.
This year’s theme is “Empower the community and prevent AIDS”.
“No one should face HIV alone. Building strong support networks within communities is a beacon of hope. Let’s foster empathy, understanding, and inclusivity to dismantle the isolation that often accompanies an HIV diagnosis.” health minister Ramesh Pathirana said on X (twitter). (Colombo/Dec1/2023)