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A U-turn has been performed by the Burmese junta after international media coverage of its order to evict HIV/AIDS patients from a Rangoon care home intensified in recent days.
The 80 or so patients had been handed an eviction notice the day after opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest on 13 November, visited the HIV/AIDS Patients Care Centre.
Campaigners said the move was political, while government health officials said the “cramped” conditions there were ripe for the spread of the disease and related illnesses, as well as the fact that the patients had not be registered by local officials.
But the about-face came after sustained media coverage and criticism from international support groups, such as the International AIDS Society (IAS), who said the eviction “could have irreversible repercussions for the health of the patients”.
The owner of the care home is Phyu Phyu Thin, a colleague of Suu Kyi’s at the National League for Democracy (NLD), which until its dissolution earlier this year was the biggest political threat to the ruling junta in Burma.
“We went to [renew] the guest registration around 7pm [Thursday] evening and they granted the stay until 1 December,” said Phyu Phyu Thin. “According to the system, the registration has to be extended every seven days.”
Both Phyu Phyu Thin and the patients were threatened with arrest if they refused to move, but Phyu Phyu Thin said he was hopeful the change in tack meant the home could remain permanently.
According to IAS, there are an estimated 240,000 people infected with HIV in Burma. UN figures estimate that 18 percent of female sex workers and nearly one in three gay and bisexual men are carriers.