Sri Lanka ‘Still in Dark Ages’

There’s been a call in Sri Lanka for greater openness and understanding in dealing with HIV and AIDS. Speaking on World AIDS Day, the former national cricket captain, Kumar Sangakkara, said there was a high degree of ignorance and embarrassment surrounding the virus and how it is spread.

Kumar Sangakkara, who resigned as cricket captain in April, has a role as ambassador for an international AIDS awareness initiative.

He said that even though Sri Lanka has a very low level of HIV infection officially 0.02% of the adult population people here should not be complacent.

Still in Dark Ages

He said the country was still “in the Dark Ages” in its attitude to the illness and that people tended to treat sex as an illicit topic better left in a closet. To fight AIDS, that must change, Sangakkara said.

“We need parents to sit with their children. We need teachers to sit with their students. We need those children to sit with their friends. We need communities to sit together and talk – talk about sex, talk about safety, talk about respect, talk about love, talk about protection”.

Discriminated against

Kumar Sangakkara told his audience at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce that the workplace was a good place to educate people, because at the moment too many HIV-positive employees were ridiculed, sacked and discriminated against.

People living with HIV and AIDS should be embraced and not stigmatised, he said.

He said some of his own attitudes had been influenced abroad by meeting HIV-positive children in Trinidad and realising how they craved affection; and in encountering an African woman who was leading an entirely normal life despite carrying the virus.