AIDS takes its grim toll

By Carol Aloysius
The cumulative number of reported cases of people living with HIV has increased from 1,029 in 2008 to 1,285 at the end of the third quarter of 2010, according to the latest data from the STD/AIDS Control Programme.
The number of reported cases of AIDS at the time of diagnosis for the same period too has jumped from 281
to 332.
The total number of AIDS related deaths has also increased from 182 as at the end of September 2008 to 216 in the third quarter of 2010.

Age-wise the highest number of people infected with the HIV virus were those in the prime of their lives- between 24-49 years
More children under 15 years too have been infected with the HIV virus. In 2008, the cumulative number of HIV infected children was 31 as against 46 by the 3rd quarter of 2010. “All of these children were infected by Mother to Child transmissions,” Dr K M Ariyaratne of the National STD/AIDS Control Programme said. The ratio of men and women infected with the HIV virus was 1:5 at the end of the third quarter of 2010.
Dr Ariyaratne charged that many of these women were West Asia workers.
“I believe that around 30-40% of women may have been infected with HIV by the time they returned home,” he noted.
This charge however was in direct contradiction to what health officials told a recent media gathering at the Health Education Bureau, when they discussed how HIV/AIDS spread in this country.
According to them, the majority of women with HIV in Sri Lanka were married women who had been infected by their HIV infected husbands or partners without their knowledge.
Commenting on a new drug to prevent HIV transmission reported as a major breakthrough in HIV prevention among homosexuals, in a news report from San Francisco, he said that they were only preliminary trials and it would take years to see if the drug was really effective or not.
“However treatment is available to prolong the life span of those affect with the virus, though its effectiveness will depend on detecting the patient at an early stage and putting him on treatment at the initial stages,” Dr Ariyaratne said.
“Our problem is that though we have the infrastructure in place for detecting the disease early, the takers are not enough. What we need is more awareness raising to persuade people at risk of getting the disease to visit our STI clinics at the different general and base hospitals across the country,” Dr Kulasiri Buddhakorale , Consultant, NSACP said.
“We have an on going Voluntary Counselling and Testing Programme. More people with risky sex should volunteer themselves for testing,” he emphasised.
“Confidentially will be strictly ensured,” Dr Chandrika Jayakody, senior registrar, added.
She said HIV was like any other disease and could only be transmitted by unprotected sex with an HIV infected person, through HIV infected blood and blood products and by an HIV pregnant woman to her child.
Since HIV/AIDS was not contagious, she said that apart from the patients who needed in ward treatment, the rest could have their treatment at the special OPD’s centres at the STI or the IDH which were manned by health workers specially trained for this task. “HIV cannot be cured, but it can be prevented through safe sex . So use a condom when engaged in risky sex,” she advised
According to the latest global report released by the UN recently , a total of 33.3 million adults and children were living with HIV at the end of 2009. Annually 2.6 million adults and children were infected each year.
Meanwhile the estimated (unofficial) number of people living with HIV has dropped by approximately one thousand over a 2 year period, Health sources told The Nation, Friday.
In 2008, the estimated number of people living with HIV was 4,000. At the end of the third quarter of 2010 the estimated number of those living with HIV had dropped to 3,000.
“This is largely due to raised awareness on the danger of risky sex and our vigorous condom promotion efforts,” Dr Ariyaratne said.
“Our reports are updated every two years. The next update will be in 2012 which will indicate the 2011 estimated statistics,” he explained.