While reporting a total of 439 new Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infected persons, the Health Promotion Bureau today said that there was an increase of HIV infections among young people during the last year (2019).
Addressing the media on World AIDS Day, which falls tomorrow (December 1, 2020), Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr Palitha Karunapema said the number of HIV infections were among young people aged 15-24 years and 359 of them were male persons.
He said 12 per cent of new HIV infections in 2019 were from the above age group, and 89 per cent of them were males.
“Despite Sri Lanka being a low prevalent country for HIV (less than 0.1 per cent of the general population), there has been a gradual increase in the number of new diagnoses of HIV infected persons reported in recent times. It is one of our main aims to maintain this low prevalence” he said.
The main mode of transmission of HIV transmissions in the country occurs through unprotected sex and most frequently by unprotected same-sex relationships in males, Dr Karunapema said.
Sri Lanka adopted the theme "Youth responsibility to stop HIV", for the year 2020, considering the current epidemic patterns.
Dr Karunapema said many factors make young people vulnerable to acquiring HIV such as early sexual initiation, inadequate knowledge on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), lacking necessary life skills to avoid risky behaviours to prevent being infected with STIs and HIV, misuse of modern technology and forming instant relationships with unknown partners, having multiple concurrent partners and drug use and sex.
He also mentioned the main preventive activities to control this epidemic -- such as comprehensive sexual health education and life skills development for positive behaviour change, delaying sexual intercourse until marriage, limiting sexual intercourse to one faithful partner, using a condom correctly and consistently with every partner, referring to HIV testing and treatment services for those who are at risk of infection, minimizing stigma and discrimination and creating an enabling environment for treatment, care, and support. (Chaturanga Samarawickrama)