- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Myanmar: New policy requires HIV groups to register

Categories: East Asia, Myanmar (Burma), Health, Humanitarian Response

HIV Information for Myanmar (HIM) has written an article [1] regarding the recent change of policy in the formation of informally named groups of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) Network.

The author attached a letter [2] from Deputy Director-General of Disease Control Unit under the Ministry of Health addressing to Head Doctors under the Prevention and Control Team for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV.

PLHIV Networks are being formed in different States and Divisions in order to help with the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. In doing these tasks, it is necessary for PLHIV Network Group to work under the supervision of Prevention and Control Team for STDs and HIV, and thus, does not need to carry a separate name. If the Group wants to operate under a separate name, it will need to register step-by-step at the Township, Province, and State/Division Peace & Development Councils, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, in accordance with the laws of forming an organization.

An anonymous reader left the following comment [3]:

If the gov is really on the path toward democracy, just love their people first. Participation is very critical to real development. How many NAP's staff around the country? Do they have enough manpower to reach 240,000 infected people (what they wrote, might be higher : who knows?). Do you have any evidences to code that PLHIV are involved in political matters? Eventually, they were just seeking the options to have access to ART through different channels.

Another reader left a comment [4] explaining about the health situations in Myanmar. He also wrote about the condition of HIV patients in Myanmar:

There are many HIV infected patients or people living with HIV in the Union of Myanmar. Many HIV patients cannot afford any HIV medications and some lack of HIV medication because their respective NGO stopped providing them with many reasons. People in Burma or in the Union of Myanmar are indeed helpless. People in Burma have no human-rights at all and no voice at all. They are same like prisoners in their own country no matter they live in the jail or not.

Some are worried that the new government policy of requiring HIV groups to register could be used to “control” or undermine the independence of volunteer groups in Myanmar. Another reader also voiced his concern in his comment [5] regarding the challenges faced by NGOs after the Saffron Revolution in 2007.

…. Self helping and supporting each other is a very basic  value and basic rights of man kind which by no means require any permission from any one. Encouraging and facilitation for formation of self help groups in a response to HIV response is internationally recommended best practice and best use of people living with HIV as resources for care and treatment programs. Every medical professional understands that any restriction on access to  assistance for individuals’ health is kind of breaching the code of ethic of medical profession. The international non government organizations implementing health programs has been in a silent crisis for almost a half decade, particularly after September 2007. Their MOUs have been under pending if they do not follow the advice to reduce their project sites. The NAP used to be quite OK to pretend active in working with international and local NGO in developing National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and accomplishing targets in prioritized townships together with stakeholders. After the September movement, all health programs are looked from military's security perspective. Not bother to care for anyone's any issue, but greater care for their security. More and more INGO and Local NGO are asked to reduced their operating areas. It was quite difficult for the medical professionals to convey the unethical advices to their counter parts , the humanitarian IGNOs. However, the recent restriction letter looks like that Medical professionals from DOH are more confident and comfortable issuing such unethical orders to the people living with HIV/AIDS, their patients. They no longer see people living with HIV/AIDS as their patients, but as threats to their security, the livelihood security of the staff from the DOH…..

According to a  press release [6] from Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) in November 25, 2008, an estimated 240,000 people are thought to be living with HIV/AIDS in Myanmar. Among them, 76,000 are in urgent need of anti-retro-viral treatment, yet less than 20 percent of them are currently able to access it.