Sri Lanka - August 2008
Sex-related issues including HIV and AIDS are taboo subjects in most Asian countries. Very few seek treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and volunteer for HIV counselling and testing. ILO data suggests that the general community is reluctant to seek these services due to “shyness” and lack of information. This situation not only creates difficulties in gauging the magnitude of the epidemic but it also blunts the response to it.
An innovative approach has been used to link local STI clinics and in a workplace peer-driven HIV and AIDS education programme piloted in 14 workplaces in 3 sectors of the economy, reaching some 6,500 workers. During project implementation, 262 peer educators took a field trip to a local STI clinic. Available services were explained and the medical officer in charge provided details of the clinic procedures aimed at ensuring patient confidentiality. To ensure trust from the workers, clinic staff even shared their private telephone numbers and offered to address concerns in private.
Further focus group discussion with worker peer educators revealed that this exercise has boosted the confidence of the workers in the STI clinic which is now viewed as a “friendly” environment. This partnership has had the added benefit of ensuring a continuous supply of condoms and allowed for opening a “gateway” to HIV referral systems of care and support. Peers now accompany an average of 6-10 peers per month to the clinic for care. This collaboration has now resulted in a relationship that is vital to the sustainability of both programmes.
Strengthening the link between STI clinics and workplaces is beneficial to both parties and to the workers. This is a win-win situation. This approach should be expanded at national level.
References: BCCFA and mapping exercise, ILO Sri Lanka (2005).