HIV patients facing eviction

Burmese officials have told some 80 HIV sufferers living in a Rangoon care home that they will have to leave a day after released opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi paid a visit.

The official reason given for the eviction was that the home, operated by National League for Democracy (NLD) member Phyu Phyu Thin, had failed to keep a list of residents, a requirement under Burmese law.

The chairman of the local Ward Peace and Development Council in New Dagon (South) township, Than Soe, told the patients they would have to leave by 25 November.

He said [the home] was not run by an officially registered charity or a civil society group so the patients will have to move to an HIV centre run by the military in Tharkayta [township]” said Yazar, a colleague of Phyu Phyu Thin.

If they fail to leave, both the owners and patients will be prosecuted, he added. The order was given on 18 November, the day after Suu Kyi visited the home and called for better treatment to be given to sufferers.

According to the UN, 18 percent of female sex workers in Burma are infected with HIV, while nearly one in three gay and bisexual men are carriers. The disease continues to be heavily stigmatised: the Burmese government last year marked World AIDS Day with an article in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper linking the disease to “socially unacceptable behaviour”.

“This [home] is the final fortress for HIV victims…and we won’t let this fall,” said Yarzar. “We will do whatever we can to keep this surviving.

“However, we will have no choice if they use violence on us – we will have to defend it and remain there. We will keep on applying for guest registration – to grant it or not is their concern.”

Suu Kyi, who was freed on 13 November after more than seven years under house arrest, has been busy meeting with supporters and attempting to reignite the NLD, which was disbanded earlier this year.

She remains a powerful figure in Burma and the arch nemesis of the ruling junta, but has said since her release that she would welcome dialogue with the generals.

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