Saturday, March 23, 2013

Myanmar to receive crucial HIV/AIDS funding


Saturday, 23 March 2013 16:54 Rosie Gogan-Keogh

Myanmar may receive an additional funding package of up to US$89.5 million to fight HIV, TB and Malaria following a visit by a Global Fund team to assess the funding gap in prevention and treatment of the diseases.

A doctor meets with patients at an HIV/AIDs clinic run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in southern Myanmar. [Photo: Veronique Terrasse/MSF]

“The current funds available for HIV under the New Funding Model of Global Fund are $33 million per year. While it is good news that we will be funded from 2013 until 2016, the challenge is that a gap of $28 million per year would not allow us to meet the needs and commitments of the program,” said Eamonn Murphy, the country coordinator for UNAIDS, in a statement released by UNICEF on March 21.  

Murphy further explained that the funding will allow partners to barely maintain current level of program implementation, “Scaling up to reach more people with life-saving HIV prevention and treatment will require increased financial investment, particularly in the areas of human resources, information management, supply chain management and decentralizing processes and systems,” he said.

The Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) have also announced that they will be expanding their partnerships with local agencies working with HIV/AIDS patients in Myanmar.

"Access to treatment must be raised throughout Asia, particularly in Myanmar, where people are dying on ART waiting lists in hospitals," said Dr. Chhim Sarath, chief of AHF's Asia-Pacific Bureau in a statement on March 18. "We will change the channel in Burma [Myanmar], where people have fought so hard for freedom only to face another deadly enemy - AIDS."

Soe Moe Kyaw, a representative of people living with HIV, Myanmar Positive Group, would like to see things move faster.  "People are dying – they need treatment today. People living with HIV who are eligible to receive ARV must be on treatment.  We request all the partners to support us, to make sure that we will all receive treatment as soon as possible,” he said in the UNICEF statement.

As of 2011, there were an estimated 216,000 people living with HIV in Myanmar and an average of 20,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses per year. Lack of awareness has helped the disease to spread, particularly between families.

Only 40,000 adults and children currently receive antiretroviral treatment and many of the treatment programs currently in place are through Doctors Without Borders. There have been continued calls for increased investment in schemes to help fight and prevent the disease.

The final funding amount for Myanmar will be approved at the Global Fund Board meeting in June.

However, discrimination remains a major issue in tackling the epidemic throughout the country. Until 2002, doctors risked imprisonment if they recorded a person's death as HIV/AIDS-related.
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