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More resources needed to fight AIDS in Burma

A high-level United Nations delegation has called for an urgent and rapid increase in resources for AIDS programmes in Burma, after a week of meetings with government officials and people affected by AIDS/HIV.

Children at an HIV/AIDs center operated by the National League for Democracy in Rangoon. Photo: MizzimaInvestment to treat AIDS patients in Burma needs to increase dramatically to assist those who are living with HIV and to prevent more people becoming infected, said the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Nafis Sadik.

At the same time, increased governmental budget allocation to AIDS work is also needed, she said.

She advised the government to revise and remove all laws, policies and programmes that block access to services for people living with and most affected by HIV, said U.N. officials.

During the seven-day visit, the U.N. team met with Vice President Sai Mauk Kham; Minister of Health Pe Thet Khin; Minister of Labour, Social Welfare and Relief and Resettlement, Aung Kyi; Attorney-General, Dr. Tun Shin; Dr. Kyaw Myint, chair of Pyithu Hluttaw Committee on Health Promotion and Maung Maung Swe, chair of Pyithu Hluttaw Committee on Population and Social Development.

The group also met with Aung San Suu Kyi and with people living with HIV.
Vice President Sai Mauk Kham underlined the government’s commitment to addressing HIV in the country. He said HIV, TB and malaria are prominent public health problems in Burma, and the government is working in close collaboration with the U.N., nongovernmental organizations, local freelance philanthropic organizations and civil society in its response to the HIV issue.

Suu Kyi expressed her concern about reduced funding for treatment and prevention and stressed the importance of a sustained, well-managed response to AIDS in Burma. She also highlighted the importance of openness and compassion in government and in the community, as well as the role of community organization in the provision of AIDS prevention and care programmes.

The U.N. delegation noted that Burma has made progress in its national AIDS response despite limited resources. HIV prevalence among all key populations has begun to decline and the number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment has grown substantially. However, the delegation also noted with concern that two-thirds of people living with HIV do not have access to life-saving treatment, and available financial resources for AIDS in the country are expected to decline this year.

If additional resources are not made available, the gains of the past years will be lost, and the badly needed scale-up of services will not happen, said UNAIDS Director Steve Kraus.

Increased partnership; increased impact

During her visit, Sadik spoke at the inauguration of the Business Community Charter on AIDS, which seeks to mobilize the business sector to actively participate in the national AIDS response. The nature of the HIV epidemic requires that all sectors contribute to the response, and this includes business and media, said Sadik.

Sadik said the delegation had a number of constructive discussions with Members of Parliament. Necessary review of laws, policies and practices that block access to services for people living with HIV and people from key communities at risk were highlighted as key areas for lawmakers to focus on.
She stressed that people living with HIV and communities most affected by HIV need to be involved at the heart of all efforts: in the planning, design and implementation of AIDS programmes.

People living with and affected by HIV know better than anyone else what works and how to get the best impact, and they are ready and willing to work in close collaboration with government and other partners to ensure the greatest results, said Myo Thant Aung, chair of the Myanmar Positive Group, the national network for people living with HIV in Burma.

As of 2011, there were an estimated 216,000 people living with HIV in Burma. According to the 2011 HIV Sentinel Surveillance data, HIV prevalence among female sex workers was 9.4 per cent, among people who inject drugs 21.9 per cent, among men who have sex with men 7.8 per cent, and among pregnant women attending antenatal care services 0.9 per cent. More than 40,000 adults and children receive antiretroviral treatment, but it is estimated that over 120,000 people are in need of treatment.

– For more information, contact Dr. Sun Gang, UNAIDS country coordinator, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 May 2012 15:32 )  

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