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NGOs join job agencies in HIV program

Organizations learn how help migrant workers steer clear of killer disease

  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • May 17, 2011
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The government, in association with the International Labor Organization (ILO) began a three-day HIV/AIDS prevention training program yesterday for NGOs, Caritas and employment organizations who work with overseas migrants.

“The focus of HIV/AIDS prevention programs should be those at most risk, such as migrant workers, so we train those who work with migrants as protectors,” said Indira Hettiarachchi, national project coordinator of the ILO’s HIV/AIDS prevention program.

Representatives from 10 job agencies and 12 NGOs are participating in the program.

“Since we work in villages, we come across many people about to migrate and needing advice, but we are not aware enough of the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS overseas to be of adequate help to them,” said B. A. Prasad Fernando, project coordinator of Caritas Chilaw.

It is estimated that 1.2 million Sri Lankans work in the Middle East and 79 percent of the unskilled migrants are women.

The government says they need to be aware of the risks from engaging in unsafe casual or commercial sex, or contracting the killer disease as a result of sexual abuse.

As well as awareness, improving migrants' life skills such as decision making, critical thinking as well as communication and interpersonal skills, helps them protect themselves, said Hettiarachchi.

“The social scars for HIV patients are eternal. They need love and concern,” said an anonymous former migrant worker who contracted HIV as a result of sexual abuse and who now works with Hettiarachchi.

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