translation agency

Agence France-Presse
Two-thirds of Myanmar HIV patients untreated: MSF

February 22, 2012

BANGKOK, Feb 22, 2012 (AFP) - International funding cuts threaten to deepen
an HIV crisis in Myanmar, where tens of thousands of people are denied
lifesaving treatment, an aid agency said Wednesday.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said only a third of the
120,000 people in need of antiretroviral drugs in Myanmar were receiving the
therapy, with up to 20,000 people dying each year due to a lack of treatment.

MSF Myanmar head Peter Paul de Groote said there was already an
"unacceptable" gap in treatment and warned the situation would worsen without
further funding.

"In Myanmar, we have a situation where there is willingness and the
capacity to scale up, so if more money would flow into the country we think,
combined with better access, we could close that gap," he told reporters in
Bangkok.

The Paris-based aid agency said the cancellation of an entire round of
support by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has left it
with limited funds to treat a further 40,000 people.

The Global Fund, which receives donations from governments and the private
sector, is a major financier of programmes to treat its three target illnesses
worldwide.

"It is an unacceptable situation. You have to tell someone: 'You are not
sick enough, so please come back later, maybe then you'll be sick enough and
we can give you the treatment'," said de Groote.

Myanmar's former junta prioritised military spending, leaving healthcare in
tatters.

While a new quasi-civilian regime which took power last year is likely to
boost funding, MSF said it would be years before the health system is fully
functioning.

Recent political reforms have sparked hopes of an increase in aid to the
country -- the least developed in the region and one of the lowest recipients
of development aid in the world.

MSF urged the international community to make tackling HIV and tuberculosis
(TB) a top donor priority for the nation, which would need to spend around
$560 per HIV patient every year on treatment.

TB is the most common cause of death for HIV patients in the world.

The MSF Lives in the Balance report said Myanmar has a high prevalence of
multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), which is more difficult and
expensive to treat.

Of an estimated 9,300 people newly infected with this disease each year,
only around 300 have been receiving treatment.

"Without increased availability of treatment, HIV and TB will continue to
spread unchecked in many areas. The time to treat is now," said MSF Doctor
Khin Nyein Chan.




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