Strengthening HIV/AIDS Prevention in Myanmar

Video | 5 March 2020

Supported by a $10 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction at the Asian Development Bank, the Ministry of Health and Sports of Myanmar implemented the Greater Mekong Subregion’s Capacity Building for HIV/AIDS Prevention Project.

The influx of migrants and local workers to development sites in border towns in Kayin and Mon states for better economic opportunities also increased vulnerabilities for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. To address this concern, the project invested in infrastructure, capacity building for health workers, community education and outreach programs to increase the government’s capacity in HIV/AIDS prevention. It specifically supported access to service for vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, local indigenous groups, sex workers, and the LGBT groups.

Strengthened health security, in turn, contributes to regional economic integration and remains a critical agenda in promoting regional cooperation.

Transcript

Kayin and Mon states in South-eastern Myanmar are undergoing unprecedented changes as new roads create opportunities for trade, tourism, and investment.

But the influx of migrant and local workers to development sites also created increased vulnerabilities for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, particularly amongst local communities, who may lack awareness and knowledge, as well as sex workers, drug users and members of the LGBT community.  

INTERVIEW 1– Dr Thandar Aung, Assistant Director of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Department. Mawlamyine General Hospital, Mon State:

 “People need to know more about HIV/AIDS because most people don't know how HIV can infect them and how they can prevent it.  So, we need to provide health education and HIV/AIDS awareness training to the community, even in schools and on construction sites.”

INTERVIEW 2 CLIP 159 TC: 04.05 – 05.17 – Sex Worker/HIV Patient, Mawlamyine, Mon State:

“Sometimes I feel so depressed and downhearted.  But, the doctors always encourage me not to worry about others.  Whatever they say, I take my medicine regularly and take care of myself.” 

Supported by a grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, at the Asian Development Bank, the Ministry of Health and Sports implemented the Greater Mekong Subregion’s Capacity Building for HIV/AIDS Prevention Project.  The project increases the government’s capacity to deliver HIV health services to vulnerable groups through infrastructure investment, capacity building for health workers, community education and outreach programs.

To address the lack of service infrastructure, the project constructed and equipped new regional integrated communicable disease control buildings in Mawlamyine, Hpa-An, Kawkeieik and Maywaddy townships.

INTERVIEW 4 – Nyein Ei San, UNOPS Construction Supervisor, Disease Control Center, Mawlamyine, Mon State:

 “Now we are in the (areas of) Mon and Kayin State, this is a border area between Myanmar and Thailand, so we have many migrants here.  And this disease control centre is for the HIV, Malaria, and also the TB patients so this building will cover all the people living in the border area.”

The project also added new rural health centers in remote areas, where access to health care, particularly among ethnic groups, has long been a challenge.

Engaging with ethnic groups  in conflict-affected areas is a key strategy in the government’s effort to deliver the “peace-dividend”, and improve the social welfare of ethnic people. Working alongside the Karen Department of Health and Welfare, the project has implemented outreach programs on HIV/AIDS and constructed rural health centers in remote areas of Kayin state, also known as Karen State, where access to health care has long been a challenge.

Min Nyi Nyi Zin, a health volunteer working with the region’s migrant workers and ethnic groups provides life-saving information on HIV transmission and prevention. 

INTERVIEW 6 – Min Nyi Nyi Zin, IOM Volunteer, Hpa an, Karen State: There are many challenges such as the difficulty in reaching so many people with often only limited knowledge or education. It’s not easy to persuade the ethnic people to do blood test as this is something they’ve likely never done before. Also, HIV patients often don't take medicine regularly and some HIV patient are scared about the virus so are hiding themselves in their communities.”

Health volunteers recruited and trained by the project distribute HIV/AIDS information and condoms.  They provide counseling and blood tests.  They refer patients to hospital and offer transport subsidies when needed.

The project is reaching high-risk populations through both formal public health channels such as rural health services and community outreach through collaboration with ethnic organizations, strengthening the grassroots public health service network for HIV/AIDS Prevention.

With increased resources and better access to health services, today’s successful interventions can be scaled up to further enhance health security along the border, supporting economic exchange and regional integration.