News / Asia

Burmese AIDS Patients Face Treatment Obstacles

Attempting to Bridge Burma’s HIV Treatment Gapi
|| 0:00:00
X
September 10, 2012 5:05 PM
Burma's AIDS epidemic mostly affects marginalized groups, such as the gay community. In a country where homosexuality remains illegal, finding and treating gay patients is a challenge for the few health workers devoted to their treatment. VOA News reports that an annual religious event called a Nat festival, however, is one time when the gay community can network - and talk to health workers about treatment.
VOA News
TAUNGBYONE, Burma — Burma's AIDS epidemic mostly affects marginalized groups, such as the gay community. In a country where homosexuality remains illegal, finding and treating gay patients is a challenge for the few health workers devoted to their treatment. An annual religious event called a Nat festival, however, is one time when the gay community can network - and talk to health workers about treatment.
 
Burma's largest supernatural spirit festival [Nat festival] takes place annually in a small town outside of Mandalay called Taungbyone, attracting animists, including many members of the gay community, from all over the country for a week of celebrations and offerings.
 
About one percent of Burma's population is HIV positive. Among high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men, health workers estimate as many as 11 percent have HIV. “Casper” is one health worker trying to curb infections.
 
"I want to give you a little test," said Casper, as he takes out a banana. "This is what we’ll use for the test."
 
Free testing helps awareness

Casper does counseling at a government clinic in Mandalay, and at the festival, where they offer free testing. He himself has AIDS, and he tells up to 200 people each year they are HIV positive.
 
“When I first see them, I ask them if they’re ready to hear the results of the test. If they’re ready, then I tell them," said Casper. "When I tell them, I observe their faces carefully, seeing whether there are any negative expressions on their faces. If I see a fallen face, then I disclose my own personal experiences.”
 
Most spirit mediums at the festival, known as nat kadaws, are gay, like Ko Chit Tae, who hails from Rangoon.
 
"HIV affects the gay community. It's highly likely among homosexuals having frequent unprotected sexual intercourse with each other," he  said.

Moving toward improved treatment

While Burma's National AIDS Plan has helped stem new infections, it offers almost no help for marginalized groups already living with HIV. Dr. Kyaw Soe, the ministry of health's HIV officer for Mandalay Division, nevertheless recognizes the risks from not treating these groups.
 
"There may be laws against homosexuality, but if we look at it from a public health point of view, we have to help these people," Kyaw Soe.
 
The international medical humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders provides 70 percent of the lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy treatment in all of Burma, also known as Myanmar. Duncan Bell is the group's Burma country director.
 
“I think the tragedy in Myanmar currently is there is the possibility to save people's lives and it's not being fully taken by the international community. There is a treatment gap of 80,000 people, approximately, in need of lifesaving treatment," said Bell.
 
Because funding is low, no new patients in Burma will be able to receive the lifesaving drugs known as anti-retrovirals until 2014. In the meantime, they have Casper to console them.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid