Programs
HIV / AIDS Advocacy
SCUBA Diving Program
Pediatric Training
   

HIV AIDS RibbonHIV/ AIDS awareness in the republic of Maldives has been severely lacking. The lack of previous infections has lulled the Maldivian community in to a false sense of immunity from the Global AIDS pandemic. However, with the growing use of intravenous drugs and a general lack of knowledge on the subject, the necessity for improved efforts on this front is imperative.

 

Priorities

Addressing Intravenous Drug Use. Drug use in the Malidves is a problem that is going largely unaddressed. Within the last few years, intravenous drug use has grown substantially in the capital Male' - in which a third of the country's population is located. There have been no indepth studies performed in the area, nor has there been an appropriate responce to the current situation.

Maintain Multisectoral Commitment. The challenge for the Maldives will be to avoid the complacency that can often follow early success. The Maldives will need to maintain and further strengthen its multisectoral commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention, expanding it, for example, to include the tourism and shipping industries. Only by continuing to involve all sectors will activities sufficiently reach smaller islands.

Increased Research. More research is needed to better understand risk factors such as drug use, serial monogamy, and the pattern of male-to-male sex. Once more is known about these behaviors, increasingly effective prevention programs can be developed.

“Travel Safe.” The Maldives can help its citizens, tourists, and immigrant workers design personal plans to keep themselves safe from HIV and other STDs while away from their homes. The process of preparing a personal safety plan helps make the abstract concepts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic more concrete and of personal significance. These plans can help avoid the threats to physical and mental health that result from being away from support systems for long periods of time.

Decrease Crosscutting Vulnerabilities. Vulnerable groups, such as poor people and women, have less access to health services. Tackling this broader problem will help the Maldives improve its overall health status as well as keep the number of HIV/AIDS cases in check. 

 

Official HIV/AIDS History in the Maldives


The first Maldivian with HIV was identified in late 1991. As of December 31 2003, the reported number of people with HIV was 135, of which 123 were foreigners. Of the twelve Maldivians, all fall in the 15-49 age-group, the youngest being 23 and the oldest 42 years of age. Six have died of AIDS related diseases. Two appear to have contracted the infection while working at tourists resorts.   Although the number of reported people living with HIV/ AIDS in the Maldives is very small, a number of factors make the country vulnerable to the spread of HIV.


Vulnerablity and Risk

·    Mobility: Many Maldivian citizens go abroad for education and work and are away from their families for long periods of time. More information is needed on the risk behaviors that these citizens may engage in while they are away from the support of their families.

·  Sexual Practices: High rates of divorce and remarriage in the Maldives create exposure to large sexual networks capable of transmitting HIV and other STDs. Since HIV symptoms often do not appear for many years, people who are unaware that they are infected may infect many of their serial spouses and casual sex partners.

    ·   Drug Use: Drug-related arrests have increased 40 times from 1977 to 1995 in the Maldives, most likely paralleling an increase in drug use. Drug use is a risk factor for HIV/AIDS for two reasons: drug users who are unable to afford their daily doses may resort to selling sex to earn money, and injecting drug users may share contaminated needles (although injecting is not currently the main mode of taking drugs in the Maldives).

    ·   Dispersed Population: Maldivians inhabit 200 of the 1,200 islands that make up their country. This dispersed population creates barriers to educating people on HIV/AIDS, distributing condoms, and treating people for STDs that increase transmission of AIDS. A UN study in 2000 revealed that in the smaller islands 55 percent of the population have no radio, and 86 percent have no television in the home. Many small islands have no bookstore, and access to newspapers is irregular.

    ·   Tourism Employment: The Maldivian tourist economy employs about 5,000 immigrant workers, mainly from India and Sri Lanka. These workers, far from their support systems, families, and usual sexual partners, are vulnerable to participating in high-risk behaviors such as sex without a condom and sex with commercial sex workers. More research is needed to better understand the risk behaviors of immigrant workers and to tailor existing HIV/AIDS programs to their needs without introducing stigma against foreigners.

    ·   External Tourism: In 1998, almost 400,000 tourists visited the Maldives, one and a half times the entire population of the Maldives. Although sex tourism is not present in the Maldives, the great influx of people from all over the world represents a potential route of introduction of HIV and high-risk behaviors such as injecting drug use and unsafe sex

 

The 2004 tsunami has thrown up some new challenges for the country. There is an urgent need for rehabilitation of the vast majority of the population which has been displaced and recovery of the assets lost. However, because of the present challenges, the Maldivian population is now even more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS than ever before.

 

* Statistics taken from UNDP