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International News
New York Times Examines HIV/AIDS Treatment Access in Myanmar

April 1, 2009

The New York Times on Wednesday examined antiretroviral treatment access in Myanmar, which ranks among the lowest countries worldwide in international assistance per capita. Medecins Sans Frontieres runs 23 clinics in the country, and the clinics serve as the primary source of antiretrovirals for HIV-positive people in Myanmar, according to the Times. According to MSF, 240,000 people are living with HIV in Myanmar, and 76,000 are in urgent need of antiretroviral access. In addition, about 25,000 HIV-positive people die annually in the country.

MSF clinics have provided 11,000 HIV-positive people with drug access, but the group has said that it cannot increase its budget in Myanmar without taking funding away from projects elsewhere. MSF last year announced that it had stopped accepting new patients to continue providing treatment to current clients. This year, the group has accepted about 3,000 new patients. "When we stopped last July, it was devastating for the staff," Joe Belliveau, MSF operations manager, said, adding, "They couldn't even treat the ones dying on their doorsteps."

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria this year has applied for government permits to bring antiretrovirals into Myanmar, and the Times reports that the number of HIV-positive people with treatment access likely will increase. Currently, fewer than 20% of HIV-positive people in need of drugs receive them -- either from international groups or in small amounts from the government -- according to an MSF report released in November 2008 (Mydans, New York Times, 4/1).

Online A New York Times photography slideshow is available online.

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