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HIV Risk Calculator App Launched in Sri Lanka via NSACP

18 October 2018 Posted by No Comment

Tuesday, 13th September 

by Dharini Priscilla 

National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP) recently launched ‘Stay Safe’ – A mobile app that facilitates self-assessment of the risk level of acquiring HIV.

The Stay Safe App, is an easy to use tool, that helps you determine the risk level of acquiring HIV through various sexual activities. The app provides a comprehensive list of common heterosexual and homosexual activities, for which the associated risk level can be obtained. The app also gives advice on reducing the risks involved by practicing safe sex and provides information on other related sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, if you are interested in getting tested for HIV the app will also help you locate government and recognized private sector test centers in Sri Lanka.

At the end of the second quarter of 2018, NSACP estimated a total of 3018 adults in Sri Lanka are living with HIV. In this case, the objective of this mobile app is both to increase awareness about the risk of HIV and encourage users to get tested and locate nearby clinics to get help if needed.Roshan De Silva, Founder and Executive Director of Diversity and Solidarity Trust (DAST), states that he was encouraged to introduce this app in Sri Lanka after learning about the efficient use of HIV risk calculators in multiple countries in South America and South East Asia. He mentions that the increased use of smartphones and mobile applications in Sri Lanka must be utilized to enhance knowledge about HIV since it is a topic that Sri Lankans do not discuss openly.

According to recent data, there are currently more than 6 million internet users in Sri Lanka and according to the Computer Emergency and Readiness Team (CERT) 56.9% of these users access the internet via smartphones. Hence, using a mobile app would definitely be an effective way to create awareness about HIV.

Further commenting on the development of this app, Roshan states:“Dr. Sisira Liyanage and Dr. Janaki Vithanapathirana assisted me in getting the app off the ground and to find funding. The development of this app was handled by a small group of people. We hired a professional to develop the mobile application, Dr. NayaniDharmakeerthi of NSACP managed the creation of the clinical content for the app while I was involved with designing of the application.”

Due to stigma, discrimination, social and cultural reasons, people are reluctant to discuss their sexual practices and seek advice about risk of HIV. This app a self-assessment about your HIV risk and gives you the risk level for the last sexual activity. It also gives you information on what to do next and where to get tested. Roshan emphasizes that this app must only be used to identify the risk level of your last sexual activity, not your overall vulnerability in general. Furthermore, when using the app, it is recommended to get the risk level of each sexual act separately. “If your last sexual activity involved kissing and penile-vaginal sex, it is important to find out the risk levels of both activities separately. If you look for the risk levels of both acts together, you will get a high rate which will lead to the misunderstanding that kissing has a risk of HIV transmission when it actually doesn’t. So, make sure to insert each sexual act into the app individually to avoid misinterpretation” advises Roshan.

Stay Safe is a trilingual mobile application and therefore will be useful for all Sri Lankan citizens. Even though men who have sex with men, sex workers, beach boys and drug users have been identified as key populations with an increase vulnerability to HIV transmission, Roshan states that this app could be useful for everyone.

Knowledge about HIV risk levels and modes of transmission are quite low in our country. Even heterosexual couples in Sri Lanka are embarrassed and reluctant to discuss topics such as anal sex among their friends. If a heterosexual couple engage in anal sex but are unaware of the risks involved, they are vulnerable to HIV transmission in the event of not using protection. Therefore, it is essential to understand that the information on this mobile app can benefit anyone.

Research from IAS 2017 now shows that those on effective treatment do not pass on the virus. In 2017, The Terrence Higgins Trust (UK) also began their can’t pass it on campaign that states:

“Scientific evidence shows that people on effective treatment for HIV are not infectious. This is because the treatment will reduce the amount of the virus in their blood to such a low level that it is no longer able to infect someone via the usual routes. That’s a really important and remarkable thing for a number of reasons. First of all, it means there should be no new HIV infections. We can stop HIV being passed on by encouraging people to get tested and treated.”

In early 2016, the Undetectable=Untransmissable (U=U) slogan was launched by the Prevention Access Campaign to promote the finding. The campaign has been rapidly gathering momentum, having been endorsed by more than 400 organizations from 60 different countries since its launch.

Despite these recent medical advancements, it is important to understand that the HIV virus can still be passed on by people who are unaware of their HIV status and/or those who are not on effective treatment. This is why the Sri Lankan guidelines now are TEST and TREAT.

Watch this video to learn more about how this app works.

If you wish to download the mobile application, click here.

NB: The information of the users is not recorded in the app so your privacy and confidentiality is strictly ensured.This app is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Courtesy bakamoono.lk

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