HIV prevention for maritime workers in Sri Lanka

    Funding mechanism: Programme Acceleration Fund (PAF), UNAIDS

    Project budget:
    74,937 USD


    HIV prevention and reduction of HIV-related stigma and discrimination among maritime workers in Sri Lanka.

    The global maritime industry faces high HIV risks globally. Maritime sector is characterized by a mobile workforce of predominantly young, male, and sexually active workers. They frequent harbours where commercial sex services are readily available. Based on a study on spousal transmission of HIV in Sri Lanka, seafarers have been identified as a main source of spousal transmission of HIV, which makes them a key bridging population.

    The ILO and the National Union of Seafarers (NUSS) jointly conducted a rapid situation assessment on HIV knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of seafarers and dockers at the Colombo port and students from the maritime schools based in Colombo, Galle and Panadura. Approximately 72 per cent of respondents were between the ages of 18 and 24. The study revealed that while knowledge on HIV transmission is generally good among this group, this knowledge has not been translated into change of attitudes or behaviours. Maritime school students exhibit stigmatizing attitudes towards HIV positive people. Dockers indicate irregular and inconsistent condom use. They associate condom use with “reduced pleasure”.

    To effectively control the HIV epidemics in Sri Lanka, one must address low condom use in commercial sex and target clients of sex workers. Unprotected non-commercial sex among seafarers aboard ships is another feature of shipboard life identified within the maritime industry as a risk factor. It is often when seafarers are on long journeys that condom use declines. Therefore, it is important that condom use is promoted for sex between crew members.

Key activities

  • Conducting advocacy for HIV prevention;
  • Communicating for behaviour change at major ports;
  • Establishing HIV Resource Centers at the Colombo Port;
  • Developing an HIV Training Module and training Trainers at maritime colleges; and
  • Conducting a Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Practices survey to form the basis for developing a sustainability plan on HIV prevention in the maritime sector.