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HIV positive cyclist on awareness tour

Sarako has visited over 40 towns to date on his cycle tour across Burma to promote HIV awareness.

The 35 year old Mandalay native has been living with HIV since 2005, and on 1 December 2013, World AIDS Day, he left Rangoon on a year long excursion to spread the word about disease prevention among 258 towns across Burma.

“I’m taking the trail to raise awareness about HIV – to share my knowledge on preventing infection and my experiences as a person living with HIV,” he said.

On 14 January, Sarako arrived in Shan State capital Taunggyi, after passing through Pinlaung, Aungban, Pintaya and Lawksawk.

He will head to Shan State’s Panglong on Friday, then on to Karen, Karenni, Kachin, Chin, Mon and Arakan States.

“I want to disprove the common misconception that once one has contracted HIV, he is as good as dead,” he said, “by showing that I can still cycle from town to town – to give inspiration for others in the same situation.”

Sarako is also providing tips to locals for access to Non Governmental Organisations providing antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and supplies for those who are HIV positive.  Beyond medical assistance, many of the organisations also help people learn how to treat misconceptions and discrimination within their communities.

Kyaw Thu, a former actor well-known across the country and now a renowned philanthropist, urged the public to show him support and help boost morale for HIV victims.

“Cycling across the country is a hard task even for people with normal health conditions. I would like to urge the public to show him encouragement and help him,” said Kyaw Thu.

Sarako has been surviving on ARV supplies provided by a social assistance programme run by the National League for Democracy’s lower house representative Phyu Phyu Thin.

While not on the road, Sarako studies geography at Mandalay’s Yadanabon University.

According to United Nations estimates, there are around 240,000 people living with HIV in Burma.



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