Monday, 18 November 2019

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HIV/AIDS voluntary groups to register with health ministry

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese Ministry of Health has directed a network of voluntary groups, which are providing assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS, to register with the ministry.

The National Health Programme (NHP) under the Ministry of Health earlier this month issued a directive ordering the networks working for people living with HIV not to function in their own names but to register under Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV prevention unit of the Ministry of Health.

“They don’t want to see these networks working in their own names,” an official of an INGO working for HIV/AIDS told Mizzima.

The directive states that if the groups want to function on their own, they must apply for registration through various stages such as Township, District and finally at the Home Ministry in keeping with the law.

“It’s almost impossible. We won’t be allowed to register even if we apply for it. This is the usual phenomenon in Burma,” the official said.

“The directive does not say anything on action to be taken for non-registration. So we are continuing our work as usual,” another official of an INGO, who received the directive issued by NHP from Naypyitaw, said.

The networks namely ‘Mee Ein Shin’, ‘Tet Myanmar’ and Padomma, are basically formed with people living with HIV and these people are personally involved in providing assistance to other people living with HIV across the country.

“Peer-to-Peer relationship is achieving more understanding among us. We can give them more care and sympathy. We can encourage our fellow people who live with HIV,” an official at the ‘Myanmar Positive Group’ (MPG), who is also living with HIV, told Mizzima.

These networks had started work in 2004 and have gradually expanded with over 100 members involved in voluntary works.

An official of the UK-based international HIV/AIDS alliance group, which is providing technical and financial assistance to these small networks, said, “These networks are formed to encourage each other to enjoy social freedom as other ordinary people and to resist social ostracism. This is their main objective.”

These networks help people living with HIV to receive Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs by connecting them with groups that are providing medical assistance, and serving as attendants in hospitals and distributing pamphlets.

According to the announcement made by French NGO Medicines Sans Frontier (MSF) on 25 November 2008, there are about 240,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Burma and over 75,000 of them are in urgent need of ARV.

But the actual availability of this essential drug is less than 20 per cent of the total needy patients, the announcement said.

They have to give substitute drugs for ARV, the antibiotic Septrin instead, an official, who is working in the field in central Burma for the UK-based International HIV/AIDS assistance organization told Mizzima.

“Our organization can give ARV drugs to only 120 patients in the whole country. The rest of them can be given only substitute drugs, Septrin, just to contain the disease. It is less effective,” he added.

The organization has been providing essential drugs to only a limited number of people with HIV/AIDS in central Burma region of Mandalay, Bagan, Poppa, Yenanchaung, Myingyan, Sagaing and Monywa.

But sources said, a majority of the people with HIV still lack the drugs and urgently need it.

“The government gives assistance on a small scale. They can give it to only 50 people in Magwe. The requirement is much more than that,” another official of an international aid group said.

The ‘Global Fund’, the main provider of assistance in the fight against TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDS, suspended its assistance to Burma in August 2005, after citing government restrictions on the group’s volunteers.

After the junta restricted the movements of humanitarian assistance workers in Burma and the suspension by the Global Fund, the fund for fighting the three diseases have been given in the name of ‘Three Diseases Fund – 3 D Fund’ since 2006.

Australia, the European Commission, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Britain under the 3D funds provided USD 100 million to fight against these diseases until 2011.


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