Agence France Presse (05.27.12) - Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Doctors Without Borders (DWB) says that 120,000 HIV-positive
Myanmar residents meet World Health Organization (WHO)
criteria for antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, but only one-
third are receiving the drugs.
During the nearly half-a-century of military rule that
officially ended last year, Myanmar's governing junta spent
heavily on armed forces and had one of Southeast Asia's
largest armies. But it spent just $12 per capita on public
health in 2009, according to WHO. And only $1 of that amount
came from the government; the rest came from non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and patients. That low figure was matched
only by the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
Now newly diagnosed HIV patients at a Yangon clinic are being
told to return for treatment when they are sicker, as ARVs are
being given only to those in advanced stages of illness.
Medications to fight TB and malaria also are in short supply.
In response, more patients are turning to NGOs. After the
junta banned them from public hospitals, NGOs ran what
amounted to a parallel health service. Now they are calling
for closer cooperation with the government. "We need to start
thinking about a long-term health system where we can all work
together," said Peter Paul de Groote, DWB's head of mission.
Reformist President Thein Sein said he has quadrupled the
nation's health care budget for 2012-13. Mike Toole, adviser
to the 3MDG Fund, a consortium of international donors to
Myanmar, said this "is a good start, but it's coming from a
very low base." Even given "massive investment," he said, "it
would probably take at least 20 years, and possibly 30, to
catch up with Thailand."