Doctor says Burma ignores HIV/AIDS threat

Apr 3, 2009 (DVB), A Burmese doctor has said that the country's leaders are ignoring the threat posed by HIV/AIDS in the hope that it will go away of its own accord.

The comment came following yesterday's New York Times report which claimed that the epidemic in Burma was worse than in any other Southeast Asian country, and that the main providers of anti-retroviral treatment for the illness were overseas aid organisations.

"From a medical point of view this is very alarming and dangerous," said Dr Thiha Maung, director of the Thai-based National Health and Education Committee.

"This is not an issue that should be put on the shoulders of foreign aid," he added.

The report cited Medicins Sans Frontieres statistics that nearly 25,000 HIV-positive people die each year in Burma. A total of 240,000 people are living with HIV and 76,000 are in urgent need of antiretroviral access.

MSF runs 23 medical clinics in Burma and is the primary source of treatment for HIV/AIDS, the report said.

"[The government] don't want to confess we have this problem," said Dr Maung. "They think that if they ignore the problem, it will take care of itself.

"They want to eliminate the people carrying the disease," he added. "They want to let them die."

Currently, Burma ranks internationally as one of the lowest recipients per capita of overseas aid.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

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