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News  


 

Manhunt for HIV+ Pros’ clients

By Ishtartha Wellaboda

Seven female sex workers who recently tested positive for the HIV virus are yet plying their trade in the Colombo suburbs, with authorities yet to trace any of their clients who may have contracted the deadly virus from them.
Health Ministry sources revealed that there could be many more sex workers who have contracted the disease, as these seven detections were made by just one NGO working with the National Sexually Transmitted Diseases (NSTD) & HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme.

When The Nation contacted the NSTD & HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme, they said that, already attempts were being made to identify the individuals who had unprotected intercourse with these women.
A recent survey by NGOs working in this field and the NSTD & HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme revealed that there were more than 40,000 sex workers operating in the country. According to the National Programme, there could be many more sex workers who are HIV+, but are not under their radar. They believe that there could be more than a hundred such individuals, since the seven who tested positive had come under the radar of only a single NGO.

“Most of these surveys are conducted by reputed NGOs, since sex workers fear to keep any sort of contact with any government organisation” a spokesman at the NSTD & HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme said.
When contacted, a spokesman for the NGO that tested these women said they are constantly monitoring these women who are being given a regular supply of condoms by their organisation.

He said that sex workers usually fear government organizations even if they are trying to help them.
“Most of these women fear government organisations, since they believe that government institutions will divulge information to the police, who are known to regularly mistreat these women” the spokesperson said.

“We fear that, if too much information on these women is leaked, then these sex workers will lose their trust in us and might cut off all contacts. Then combating the menace will become even harder. If these women and others engaged in the same profession were to stop coming for their treatment, and to obtain their supply of condoms, then we will be facing a dire situation” he added.
At the moment, there are 210 registered HIV patients receiving treatment under the NSTD & HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme in Sri Lanka. Since the first case of AIDS was reported in 1987, nearly 316 people have died of the disease.
According to the NSTD HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme, 12% of the country’s HIV patients have contracted the disease through homosexual conduct, while 85% have contracted it through intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex, while 3% have inherited it from their parents.