Statements and Webcast
H.E. Dr. Geeganage Weerasinghe, Minister for Health
9 June 2011
- Statement: English (Check against delivery)
GEEGANAGE WEERASINGHE, Consultant Venereologist of the National STD/AIDS Control Programme of the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka, said that while his country’s vulnerability to HIV remained relatively high, it maintained a lower prevalence rate at below 0.1 per cent of the adult population. That was termed, he said, a “latent” HIV epidemic. Among the major factors contributing to that success were a high level of literacy, which laid a solid foundation for social achievements; the country’s universal free health-care system; and the introduction of a condom social marketing programme in the early 1970s. Moreover, Sri Lanka had first introduced an anti-venereal disease campaign in 1952, and its National STD/AIDS Control Programme had been introduced in 1985. The State had also been providing free antiretroviral therapy since 2004, he said.
Despite Sri Lanka’s low HIV prevalence, there remained significant potential for the epidemic’s expansion among concentrated groups, he said. The Government was, thus, working to mitigate that potential through coordinated and focused measures targeting groups with high-risk behaviours, such as female sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men, vulnerable youth in tourist areas and migrant employees. The Government had formulated a proposal for the period 2011-2015, which contained the country’s national response to HIV/AIDS epidemic for Round 9 of the Global Fund. That response aimed to increase the scale and quality of comprehensive interventions for the most at-risk populations. Sri Lanka also expected to map and reach those populations, in order to provide the first- and second-line antiretroviral therapy for adults and children, among other things. Underlining the need to establish an enabling environment, he said it was crucial for the wider international community to address that issue jointly and comprehensively.