Former Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Prof. Harendra De Silva has declared that both authorities and the media have failed in their duty over the controversy surrounding the six year old child from Kuliyapitiya who is rumoured to be HIV+.
Prof. De Silva said that this is not the first time authorities have faltered on such a matter.
“According to the STD policy in Sri Lanka ‘the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS are promoted, protected and respected and measures taken to eliminate discrimination.’ However, we in Sri Lanka love sensationalism, which is a standard set by the media without sensitising the people on issues such as rape, abuse or HIV. Unfortunately authorities in responsible positions do not seek advice on the legal position before making statements to the press and the press too grabs the sensational statement to sell their media,” he alleged.
According to section 3.11 of the National STD/AIDS Control Programm, “Human rights The Government of Sri Lanka will ensure that the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS are promoted, protected and respected and measures taken to eliminate discrimination and combat stigma which will provide an enabling environment to seek relevant services. These include the rights of everyone to life, liberty and security of person, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, equality before law, absence of discrimination, freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy or family life, freedom of movement, the right to work (rights of the people living with HIV in the work places) and to a standard of living adequate for health and well being including housing, food and clothing, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to education, the right to information which includes the right to knowledge about HIV/AIDS/STI related issues and safer sexual practices, the right to capacity building of the individual in dealing with this condition, the right to participate in the cultural life of the community and to share in scientific advancement and it’s Safety in health care settings prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections.
Meanwhile, Vositha Wijenayake, Attorney-at-Law noted that even though Sri Lanka has a national HIV/AIDS policy which was to be implemented by the National STD/AIDS Control Programme of the Ministry of Health with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, the manner in which the authorities are reacting to the current situation shows a ‘complete failure’ in the implementation of this policy.
“In its objectives under section 2.2 it provides that the policy is to be implemented to improve the quality of life of people infected and or affected by HIV/AIDS through minimizing stigma and discrimination and providing quality care and support. This is the exact thing that has not been provided to the mother and son in question,” Wijenayake told the Colombo Telegraph.
She added that given the treatment this mother and son have received, it is clear that many of the above rights have been violated. “The current situation shows a complete ignorance on HIV/AIDS, and also a lack of respect to a person’s rights, especially the rights of a child,” Wijenayake added.
On Saturday speaking to the media Education Minister Akila Viraja Kariyawasam said that the Zonal Education Director has confirmed that the child’s father had died from HIV, and even the child’s mother is HIV+.
Meanwhile, a concerned citizen questioned on what authority did the minister reveal the health condition of this woman. “We don’t know whether they are infected or not, even it is true, the question is who gave a government minister the right to reveal the HIV status of a Sri Lankan citizen to the world?,” she said.