Speaking to a youth conference October 21 in Battarmulla, Sri Lanka, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake said that Sri Lanka has the good fortune to be a country with a low rate of HIV infection. However, he said, "this is no cause for complacency regarding the disease."
The existence of high risk behaviors that can facilitate HIV transmission, he said, "coupled with other socio-economic, political and cultural factors that can fuel the epidemic, means that the country remains vulnerable" for HIV/AIDs to grow at a much faster rate.
Ambassador Blake noted that "fortunately, the government of Sri Lanka takes the issue of HIV/AIDS seriously, and gives the issue high priority. At the same time, the government acknowledges that there are insufficient resources and capacity to provide all the necessary testing facilities, service delivery, and public education required to ensure that the disease never catches on here as it has elsewhere in the world."
Beginning in mid 2006, the U.S. government assisted Sri Lanka's efforts with an eighteen-month, $650,000 initiative through the U.S. Agency for International Development that aimed to reduce the incidence of new HIV infection among the most at risk populations to help prevent a generalized epidemic. The U.S. provided small grants to local non-governmental organizations to build up their institutional and technical capacity on HIV/AIDS prevention.
Under the U.S. grants, the organizations have been working island wide to conduct training sessions, peer education programs, street dramas, condom promotion, counseling services, posters, leaflets and bill boards. U.S. grants also helped to fund technical assistance in HIV/AIDS services.
Globally, President George W. Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to combat global HIV/AIDS, launched in 2003, remains the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history. In July 2008, the President signed a new law dramatically increasing America's financial commitment to this fight – authorizing up to 48 billion dollars to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria over the next 5 years. This legislation will support treatment for at least 3 million people; prevention of 12 million new infections; and care for 12 million people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.
HIV/AIDs is a terrible threat, said Ambassador Blake, "but it is preventable with the right awareness, precautions and treatment."