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Gay beauty contest for HIV/AIDS education

Aug 24, 2009 (DVB), A gay beauty contest is to be held at a top Rangoon hotel later this month to raise funds for HIV/AIDS education, according to sources from Burma’s entertainment world.

A journalist in Rangoon said that the event, known as Red Ribbon, may have been inspired by a similar event held recently in the country’s former capital that received high commendation.

"Last month a similar contest was held at Thingangyun [township's] Orange Supermarket and a lot of people showed up there despite fairly expensive ticket prices that stood around 15,000 to 25,000 kyat [$US15 to $US25] ," said the source.

"People are going to watch this one too , they've been waiting for it."

Red Ribbon has been organised jointly by Revlon Cosmetic and Thidar, the wife of business tycoon Tayza, who owns Htoo Trading Company.

Aung Myo Min, director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, welcomed the news as a positive sign that Burma has become more open in its acceptance of the homosexual community.

"I welcome such events that favour the gay community in Burma , this shows that society is beginning to accept them who, in the past, were left out," said Aung Myo Min.

"Before, people used bind the links between HIV/AIDS and homosexual people , they were reduced to a level nothing more than their wigs and their make-up.

"We would be more satisfied to see them being regarded as a part of the society which is becoming more open and accepts people the way they are," he said.

It is only in the last ten years that the government has acknowledged the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Burma.

Aid groups have criticised the regime for not investing enough money to tackle the epidemic, with only 0.3 percent of the annual budget being spent on healthcare.

It is estimated that 240,000 people are infected by the HIV virus in Burma and 76,000 are in need of life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.

Of those, only 18,000 are receiving proper medical treatment and as a result 25,000 people are dying each year.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat


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