UN to extend treatment for HIV patients

The UN’s HIV/AIDS body will extend its treatment for HIV/AIDS patients in Burma, where only 12 percent of sufferers receive the necessary anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

The treatment will run up to 2015, domestic journal The Voice quoted the UNAIDS agency as saying.

Burma is one of the worst-affected countries in Asia for the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a December 2010 report that it remains a “serious problem” in a country where only 0.5 percent of the annual budget is spent on healthcare.

The ruling junta was roundly condemned in November last year after it threatened hundreds of HIV patients with eviction from a Rangoon care home.

The order for the men, women and children to leave came the day after released opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi visited, although their stay was later extended.

The owner of the care home, Phyu Phyu Thin, told DVB that while the UN treatment was welcome, plans needed to made for beyond 2015.

“Here, HIV/AIDS patients are dying every day due to lack of medicine,” she said. “At least, if the medicine is provided for the next three years, then the patients would be able to live longer and be more healthy.”

According to UNAIDS figures, the numbers of adults in Burma between 15 and 49 carrying the disease rose from 0.2 percent of the population in 1990 to 0.6 percent in 2009, although it has seen a decrease from 2001 when it peaked at 0.8 percent.

The WHO report said that Southeast Asia has seen a 46 percent rise in rates of HIV infection among children in the past eight years, while around 220,000 people across the region have contracted HIV in the past year.

“Regionally, women constitute 37 percent of the 3.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and without any intervention, about a third of infants born to HIV-positive mothers could acquire HIV,” the report said.

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