With more than 100,000 people contracting sexually transmitted diseases every year despite Sri Lanka's conservative attitudes, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) have decided to educate factory workers about AIDS.

"In a cultural context the home environment is not suitable to discuss such things and neither is school. So the workplace is the ideal place to discuss these things," said Gotabaya Dassanayaka, Director General, EFC.

The AIDS classes will target working adults, as part of a US-funded factory improvement programme. Already 9 garment factories have signed up.

Garment factory workers living in free-trade zones are considered at high risk of both STDs and AIDS.

Sri Lanka's growing commercial sex trade coupled with low condom use among men, and the increasing travel to and from India - that has the second largest population of HIV victims in the world - have increased the risk of an outbreak in Sri Lanka.  

By Dilshani Samaraweera.