The number of HIV/AIDS cases reported from Sri Lanka, by the end of 2004, was around 614. The International Labour Organisation said yesterday that the numbers could increase as these were only the official numbers.
However, persons with the disease were reluctant to come forward due to the immense changes that take place in ones appearance and the social stigma associated with it.
According to ILO and UNAIDS reports, the estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDs in Sri Lanka is around 3,500, ILO sources said yesterday. A majority of them belong to the productive section in society, such as drivers, those in the hotel trade, the army, teachers and artists. A majority of them are within the age of 30 - 39, they said.
`Even though Sri Lanka is one of the South Asian countries in which HIV/AIDS has not posed such a threat the possibilities of the disease spreading are much higher. The reluctance to use condoms, the large number of commercial sex workers and external and internal migration are only some of the reasons, the ILO said.
However, the ILO and the Ministry of Labour Relations and Foreign Employment have come up with a three-year program to control the spread of HIV/AIDS among workers. The program would introduce various programs and policies in workplaces, develop work skills, implementing awareness programs and preventing the differentiating of those who have contacted HIV/AIDS.
The final aim of this project is to develop a definite National Program to combat the disease, they stated.
The ILO urged the government, the trade unions and service providers to join hands to combat HIV/AIDS in workplaces.