Hands up for #HIVprevention

01/12/2016 – Colombo, Sri Lanka: Despite the progress made against HIV over the past 15 years and the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static, at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010 the world over. Moreover, there has been resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world.

In Sri Lanka alone by the end of the 3rd quarter of 2016, there are 2309 reported cases of HIV infections among Sri Lankans while over 4000 people are living with HIV.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus – commonly known as HIV – causes AIDS for which there is still no permanent cure, although symptoms can be controlled through anti-retroviral drugs.

According to the statistics of the National STD/AIDS Control Programme, there has been an increase in AIDS patients in Sri Lanka. Director of the National STD/AIDS Control Programme Dr. Sisira Liyanage points out that among the HIV patients reported in the country, a majority are between the age groups of 25 and 45.

There is also HIV prevalence among the age groups between 15 and 25.

The National STD/AIDS control programme estimates that there are some  2500 HIV positive patients in Sri Lanka. While 310 HIV positive patients were reported between 2000 and 2004, this figure increased to 582 between 2005 and 2009 and 649 from 2010 to 2013. In 2014 alone, 238 people were reported HIV positive. The figure increased to 309 in 2015.

Inadequate investments in prevention and unfocused investments that do not reach the most affected populations and locations are among the reasons for the prevention gap.

With funding for prevention falling behind funding for treatment, fewer than one in five people at higher risk of HIV infection today have access to prevention programmes. UNAIDS modelling has shown that investing around a quarter of all the resources required for the AIDS response in HIV prevention services would be sufficient to make possible a range of prevention programmes, including condom programmes, pre-exposure prophylaxis, voluntary medical male circumcision, harm reduction, programmes to empower young women and girls, and mobilizing and providing essential service packages for and with key populations.

Investing more in prevention will also support treatment programmes to achieve their targets. Prevention programmes—including providing HIV information, condom distribution and outreach to young people and key populations—are often the first entry point for individuals to HIV testing and treatment. Community peer-led prevention programmes are also critical for reducing stigma and discrimination. Meanwhile, expanded access to treatment gives people at higher risk choices and encourages them to find out their HIV status; this, in turn, provides the opportunity to retain people who test negative in ongoing prevention programmes. Reducing the number of people who acquire HIV and will need treatment makes antiretroviral therapy programmes more sustainable.

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