LBCHA to help biz rise to HIV, AIDS challenge

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Sarah Hannan Outgoing Chairman for LBCH and CEO of Chevron Lubricant Lanka Plc Kishu Gomes and the Board of Directors of LBCH held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Cinnamon Lakeside last Friday. Prior to the AGM, Gomes presented an overview on LBCH’s journey to the audience, during which he also recognised the support and contribution that LBCH had received during his tenure. Certificates of appreciation were presented to the team behind LBCH and special awards were presented to two individuals and one organisation: Secretary, International Labour Organisation Ruth Thamel; Director, Spear International Ltd. Sharmini Mendis and Bates Strategic Alliance and Strategic Alliance PR for which the award was collected by the company’s Chairman/CEO Nimal Gunawardena. The highlight of the AGM was the induction of the new Chairman of LBCH who is also one of the Directors of the organisation and CEO for Standard Charted Bank in Sri Lanka Anirvan Ghosh Dastidar. Upon assuming up his new role as Chairman, Dastidar shared the agenda for 2013-2014.  Addressing the gathering Dastidar stated: “It is always hard and yet easy to take the lead after Kishu Gomes. Hard because he initiated this coalition and easy because we just need to carry forward what he started. I am grateful for the active participation of all member organisations and special thanks go to Bates Strategic Alliance and Strategic Alliance PR and International Labour Organisation. In the years to come we will accommodate more memberships, a different kind of partnership and a stronger engagement from all at LBCH. I request you to actively engage in all programs and help LBCH to spread the message of awareness, especially when it comes to dealing with stigma at the workplace, as a red flag has been raised for HIV and AIDS in our country once again. We will need your constant feedback on how to deal with challenges and carry on this coalition and would like to note the turnout of today’s gathering as a testimony to the excellence of leadership by Kishu Gomes.” The floor was then open for Guest Speaker of the day Consultant Venereologist, AIDS Foundation Lanka Trustee and National STD/AIDS Control Program former Deputy Director Dr. Sujatha Samarakoon to shed light on the latest situation on HIV and AIDS. Dr. Samarakoon presented an illustrious narrative titled ‘Epidemic: Past, Present and Future’. Global situation in 2012 A total of 34.2 million people live with HIV, giving a global prevalence of 0.8%, and an estimated 2.7 million children under 15 years currently live with HIV. An estimated 23.5 million people are living with HIV in the Sub-Saharan Africa which translates to one in 20 adults living with HIV out of which South Africa has a total of 5.6 million people infected and has the most number of people living with HIV than any other country. Global Report on HIV 2012 In 2011 alone 2.5 million new HIV infections were reported; a decrease of 700,000 new infections compared to 2001, reducing it to 20% new HIV infections. South East Asia region Nearly 4.2 million people are estimated to be living with HIV, which is the second largest group of PLHIV, bringing the prevalence down to -0.3%. But today with targeted interventions such as 100% condom use program, harm reduction programs such as needle syringe service programs, opioid substitution therapy and antiretroviral therapy; five countries are showing a marked decline in the number of new infections. HIV epidemic in Sri Lanka
  • 1986 first AIDS case reported (a foreigner)
  • 1987 first Sri Lankan with HIV reported
  • 1988 first HIV testing done locally
  • 1989 first locally acquired HIV infection
A new infection every other day Since 2000 there were no transfusions of the virus as all blood donated was tested for HIV. However, during 2012, 186 new infections were reported and 90 new infections of HIV have been reported in the first half of this year, with one new infection reported every other day. Dr. Samarakoon further elaborated that when it comes to blood donation drives, people become vulnerable to situations where they are compelled to donate blood regardless of their venereal infections/ diseases. “Though the donated blood is always tested, the donor needs to project responsible behaviour by keeping the health authorities informed. It is interesting to know that the mode of transmission of HIV has now changed from homosexuals to heterosexuals. We have taken necessary steps at medical level and national level to prevent people being infected. But given the vulnerability, social life and especially the age group, the corporate sector has a bigger responsibility in creating awareness amongst its employees, considering the factors such as high risk behaviours, low usage of condoms, multiple sex partners and intravenous drug use. The landscape has changed; cure is not in the vicinity and prevention is cure for HIV and AIDS. 99.9% of the patients who received treatment within the last decade stated that they were unaware about HIV, therefore it is the LBCH’s responsibility to reach out as employers to educate and promote the testing facility for HIV, which is provided free of charge at any STD clinic at Government hospitals and also available in private hospitals at a nominal rate. Prevention is key,” Dr Samarakoon reiterated. Wrapping up the day’s activities Dastidar passed the ‘Pillow of Awareness’ to Union Bank of Colombo Ltd., Kotagala Plantations Plc, Price Water Cooper Ltd., FJ & G De Sarams Ltd. and Aliwaffa Gem Company Ltd. Pix by Lasantha Kumara