Myanmar confirms increasing domestic HIV funding by US$ 5 million
Myanmar’s Minister for Health, Than Aung, confirmed during a meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, J.V.R. Prasada Rao, that domestic funding for HIV treatment will be increased by US$ 5 million. Mr Rao completed a five-day visit to Myanmar on 17 October, in which he focused on supporting the country’s efforts to rapidly and effectively scale up its AIDS programme.
There were 190 000 people living with HIV and 6700 new HIV infections in Myanmar in 2013. More than 65 000 people were receiving HIV treatment in 2013 and the Ministry of Health estimates the new funding will enable 40 000 additional people living with HIV to access antiretroviral medicine and will increase the national HIV treatment target coverage to 85%. The Minister of Health has asked his staff to work with UNAIDS to determine the cost of reaching 100% coverage.
Mr Rao welcomed Myanmar’s commitment to the HIV response and said, “The government is showing remarkable leadership in its national AIDS response and I ask the country’s leaders to extend strong support to the goal of ending AIDS by 2030. This goal must be a part of the sustainable development goals on health, which countries will adopt in 2015.”
The Minister of Health also pledged an additional US$ 1 million to further scale up opioid substitution therapy for 10 000 people by the end of 2016. Studies show that harm reduction programmes such as needle–syringe exchange programmes and opioid substitution therapy are effective in reducing the spread of HIV.
In Myanmar, key populations, including people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people, are at higher risk of HIV infection. Mr Rao urged the government to amend policies that violate the human rights of key populations and praised the country’s draft intellectual property law, which will help protect access to affordable medicines.
During his mission Mr Rao met other top officials, including the Attorney General, Tun Shin, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Kyaw Kyaw Htun, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thant Kyaw. He also met with Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson of the National League for Democracy and Member of Parliament, who expressed her support for efforts to reform laws and policies.
Mr Rao also met civil society representatives from key populations while participating in a panel discussion on the sustainable development goals and HIV.