Flood-hit HIV patients blocked from medication

The 1,615,000 people that remain severely affected by flooding and landslides that hit Burma in July and August include thousands of HIV/AIDs patients who have now lost access to antiretroviral therapy, according to an NGO suppling the medication.

Myanmar Positive Group, which supports some among Burma’s 210,000 strong population of HIV/AIDs sufferers, says the large-scale displacement of people has made it impossible to identify the whereabouts of patients. Flood-damaged roads and other transportation blocks also mean that some of those who require antiretroviral therapy to suppress the HIV disease have lost access to it.

“For now, we have access to areas in Irrawaddy, Sagaing, and Prome in Pegu, and are providing assistance to locals there by distributing drugs to patients at their doorsteps,” said Myanmar Postive Group chairperson Thawda Tun.

The natural disaster has left 384,905 cumulative households displaced, according to the United Nations on 20 August. Entire communities are sheltering in refuges set up by Naypyidaw’s Relief and Resettlement Department as well as in monasteries and neighbours’ homes.

Thawda Tun says that as people’s lives have been upturned,it has become difficult to locate HIV/AIDs sufferers whom they know to be in need.

“We have managed to supply about 70 percent of those in need, but for the remainder, we could not find some of them at their regular address. And they are not contactable by phone,” he said.

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When the heavy monsoon first swept Burma, aid including antiretroviral medication was delivered by military-led relief operations. One week’s worth of the HIV therapy was delivered, but that has long since run out. Supplies are being stockpiled in larger towns, as Myanmar Positive waits until roads and bridges reopen. The group says it is ever-hoping that the disease will not build up a tolerance to the drug within individual patients, as is possible when those undergoing antiretroviral treatment go without their medicines.

“At this time, we have a sufficient drug supply for those in need but we are unable to distribute medications to all areas as some places are still inaccessible. Generally in larger towns we have a sufficient drug supply for those in need,” Thawda Tun said.

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