YANGON — Myanmar has pledged to implement policies to fight discriminations in HIV prevention as it aims to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
At a commemorating ceremony for World AIDS Day at the University of Nursing in Yangon on Friday, Dr. Kyaw Zin Thant, director-general of the Ministry of Health and Sports’ department of medical research, told the audience that the ministry believes it will achieve the goal of ending the epidemic by 2030.
“To be able to do [HIV] prevention activities more effectively, we will set and supplement procedures and policies to eliminate major obstacles such as discriminations,” the director-general said.
According to the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Myanmar has some 230,000 people living with HIV, giving the country the second highest number of people living with HIV in Southeast Asia. With about 7,800 AIDS-related deaths and a 0.8 percent prevalence rate among adults, over half of the country’s HIV-infected people are on antiretroviral treatment, according to UN data.
While the number of deaths from the virus in Myanmar has halved in six years, health experts said discrimination against HIV-infected people and populations that have the highest risk of contracting and transmitting HIV — female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and injecting drug users —deters people from seeking medical help.
Ko Tin Ko Ko, chairman of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly healthcare center Aye Nyein Myittar, told The Irrawaddy that there are still shortcomings in the government’s prevention efforts despite the decrease in HIV prevalence.
“Discrimination will not just disappear by telling people not to discriminate. We must consider what causes discriminations in the first place,” he said, including the portrayal of HIV-infected people and key populations.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “My Health, My Right,” which aims to raise awareness of the right of everyone, including people living with HIV, to access health services, make decisions about their own health and be treated with respect and dignity.
UNAIDS Myanmar will also be raising awareness about key HIV issues this weekend with a walkathon on Saturday morning at Kandawgyi Nature Park in Yangon, where participants will be provided with information material about HIV. A performance contest will be organized on Sunday afternoon in front of Mahabandoola Park in downtown Yangon.
Shwe Lay contributed to this report.