Sanctions undermine Burma's AIDS prevention

News and Press Release
Originally published

Updated April 1, 2011 13:08:14

Health authorities in Burma say they are making progress against the HIV-AIDS pandemic that currently affects over 210-thousand people according to the United Nations AIDS programme.

But officials say international sanctions against Burma undermine efforts to curb the virus' spread.

Presenter: Ron Corben

Speakers: Dr Khin Ohmar San - Manager of the National AIDS Programme, Depart of Public Health. Ministry of Public Health Myanmar; Dr Saw Lwin deputy Director General Department of Health Ministry of Public Health, Myanmar; Kaythi Win chairperson Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers and a deputy director for PSI Myanmar

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Dr Khin Ohmar San, manager of the National AIDS Programme, Department of Public Health, says challenges remain but says the government has stepped up programmes over recent years.

KHIN OHMAR SAN: We've been providing a comprehensive care support and treatment concerning counselling and also some treatment for opportunistic infections like TB and also we can now provide antiretroviral treatment to patients. (But) we have limited resources from aid from other countries in the region but we are trying our best. We are now trying to get more support also from our government.

CORBEN: The officials see more cooperation with community based organisations and non-government groups. But more needs to be done, says Dr Khin Ohmar San.

KHIN OHMAR SAN: In order to sustain our successes and also to prevent new infections we have to focus equally on both prevention, awareness raising activities as well as to provide comprehensive care support treatment to those who are in need.

I asked Dr Saw Lwin, Deputy Director General Department of Health Ministry of Public Health, if international sanctions against Burma had undermined efforts to deal with the AIDS pandemic.

SAW LWIN: Definitely, definitely it has effect on the accessibility of the services of the affected population because if you see our country ODA (overseas development assistance) is about US$5.0 per capita per year as compared to other neighbouring countries - they get $40 per capita -- $60 per capita per year. We also we are a developing country we also need resources for tackling this problem like other developing countries. So because of this sanction to humanitarian assistance this definitely affect for accessing these affected communications to these services.

CORBEN: Kaythi Win a former sex worker and chairperson of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers is also with a Rangoon-based community network that provides assistance to both women and men sex workers. Kaythi Win says within the local communities the situation has improved.

KAYTHI WIN: When we look at the last five years within the community then the HIV is high. But now after the five years in our community the HIV (rate) is going down. New cases are going down.

CORBEN: What's the process there that's helping to improve it; is it the education process?

KAYTHI WIN: We have the programme we call Top Programme and we go for peer to peer and in our programme we have a full complement - that is the outreach activity and activity and clinical services and care and support. And we are getting a lot of support from the U.N. agency and also the National AIDS programme - that's why we are going very far in the HIV prevention and MSM (men who sex with men) and sex worker community.

But Kaythi Win says the health workers still need to be careful when dealing with the government to ensure the gains achieved at the grassroots community level are sustained into the future. © ABC

Australian Broadcasting Corporation