Sri Lanka is vulnerable to a potential HIV/AIDS epidemic despite the country's relatively low HIV/AIDS prevalence, according to a recent study conducted by the Centre for Policy Studies in London, Colombo's Daily Mirror reports. According to the Mirror, UNAIDS has estimated Sri Lanka's adult HIV/AIDS prevalence at less than 0.1%.
The study, titled "HIV/AIDS in Sri Lanka," found that although the officially recorded number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country was 862 in July 2007, the actual figure was much higher. According to UNAIDS, the number of people living with the disease is about 5,000. The study found that the Western province of the country accounts for about 60% of cases, the Central and North Western provinces account for 8%, and the North Eastern province accounts for 7%.
According to the study, various factors make the country vulnerable to a potential HIV/AIDS epidemic, including a large population of commercial sex workers, migrant workers, military personnel, internally displaced people, refugees and injection drug users, as well as a high incidence of unsafe sexual practices, such as low condom use. The study noted that poverty is the main cause of commercial sex work and human trafficking. In addition, gender-based violence and the lack of power women have to negotiate sex and safer-sex practices have increased women's vulnerability to HIV, according to the report (Jayasekara, Daily Mirror, 5/26).
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