AIDS Foundation of Lanka, inaugurated in 2008 was established as the logicalfollow-up organization to the deliberations and proceeds of the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in August 2007. This organization covers the medical, social, cultural and humanitarian aspects of the disease. It extends care and support to those who are living with the disease and also works for the prevention of the disease in the community. LW spoke to Dr. SarojiniPerera, the Director Research and Programmes of AIDS Foundation of Lanka. Dr. Sarojini Perera (MBBS, DCH; MSc (Comm. Med)) has a wideexperience in working with sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and she has been the coordinator training of the National STD/AIDS Control Programme of the Ministry of Health. Her repertoire includes organizing of many seminars and intense involvement in Training of Trainer programmes, especially in a special venture funded by the World Bank and The World Health Organization. Q What is the medical condition behind AIDS? AIDS is the condition where a person’s immune system becomes too weak to fight infections. Q What’s the present state of HIV positive patients in the country? We are facing an increase of HIV positive patients. By the end of the second quarter of this year, 59 new cases have been reported. Q What’s the age group with the highest number of HIV positive patients? 15-24 years. School children and the young fall into this category. Therefore young people should be very careful about their behavior. Q Is this condition preventable? Of course this condition is 100% preventable. It all depends on your behavior and the behavior of your partner. Q What are the steps taken by AIDS Foundation of Lanka to serve those who are in need of your services?
Q As a professional, what is the final message you have to give to the society? Improve knowledge about HIV and learn to protect yourself. If you have had risky sexual behaviours or if your mother had HIV, get yourself tested quickly. Limit your sexual intercourses to one faithful partner. Pass on the message about HIV to everyone you know.
Princey Mangalika from Positive Women’s network stated her ideas on the fate of AIDS patients in Sri Lanka and the services done by the institution for the needy. She has rendered her service this field for a long time and she was the first person to talk in the television as a HIV positive person. Q How did you enter this field? I’m also a victim of this and I got it from my husband. My children had to face a lot of problems at school when the village got to know about this. We faced a lot of problems and this was just because of the lack of awareness of the people. Q What are the services rendered by your institution?
Q What help do you expect from the society? All what we expect from the society is equal treatment for HIV positive patients. We need to work, talk and live like ordinary people and spend a normal life. Therefore what we ask from the society is to let us live ordinary lives like normal people. Positive Hopes Alliance Sunanada Jayarathne representing Positive Hopes Alliance spoke to LW regarding AIDS patients in Sri Lanka. She has worked in Lanka Plus before Positive Hopes Alliance was registered in 2009. Q Can you give an introduction to your institution? Positive Hopes Alliance is an institution that lends its services for HIV positive patients. We currently have 57 members and we are connected to all patients throughout the country. Our main focus is on those who live with the virus and their families. Q What are the services offered by Positive Hopes Alliance?
Q What are the challenges that you face?
Q What are the other institutes with which you connect in rendering services? UNAIDS,AIDS foundation, ILO, International institutes like APN+, National Strategic Plan Q As an institution working for the benefit of HIV positive patients, what do you expect from society? For the moment, we don’t have a permanent land. Therefore what we need is a land.And we would like to ask from society to let us live on our own, without depending on anybody. Lanka Plus Priyanthi Kumari spoke to LW representing Lanka Plus institute. She is the past president of the institute and has rendered her services in this field, to her optimum. Q What is Lanka Plus? Lanka Plus is the institute started by Dr. Carmelica Abeyrathne in order to treat those who are victims of HIV/AIDS. This was started in 2001. Q How many members are there in Lanka Plus? At present we have about 280 members. About 30 of them are children living with HIV virus. Q Can you name some of the services done by your institute?
Q Can you name some of the institutions that aid you in your services? AIDS foundation, ILO, People’s Church, MAS Holdings, Hope for Children Q What are the difficulties that you face? We don’t have a permanent place and a permanent income. These two are the biggest difficulties that we face. Apart from that, we don’t have resource persons; therefore we should pay for services. Q What’s the message you have to give to society? I need to say that those who are living with HIV virus are also humans. This could happen to anyone anytime. Therefore don’t corner them, they are also a part of the society. Photographs By Nirmala dhananjaya