It seems that the
Burmese regime has declared war on Humanitarian Concern especially to
AIDS/HIV patients. The latest pressure came from the chairman of Thaketa
(10) South, Ward No 2 chairman Mya Thaung, who not only refused them the
permission to register as guests but also humiliated one Khin Maung Oo
in public for contracting AIDS and intimidated him. In Rangoon ’s South
Dagon Township , authorities have issued a letter to Phyu Phyu Thin,
because she tried to organize a Buddhist ceremony (Hsoon Thut) for
HIV/AIDS patients on their last journey.
paradoxical that at a time, when the AIDS Conference in Toronto was just
completed and the civilized international community was brainstorming of
how to alleviate this suffering, Burma , instead of helping these
unfortunate patients is bent of harassing them so that they may passed
out quickly from this earth. Are the Generals human beings at all? Even,
if they are homo sapiens they doesn't seem to have an organ call heart
because no human will do such inhuman act. Perhaps they have done this
unearthly act because they still want another record to be in Guinness
Books of Records, as the first government in the world to harass the
dying AIDS patient, being not satisfied with the record of arresting the
youngest prisoner of conscious in the world (a three day old baby was
taken prisoner because her father ran away when the security come to
arrest him in Pegu some years ago).
At first, this AIDS
disease was a "Hush Hush" affairs when the Junta gave a secret
order to kill, the women sex workers infected with AIDS coming back from
Thailand , especially in Ranong area. Many had been killed with lethal
injection as if to appear that they died while taking treatment. The
rationale behind is because there was not a single AID/HIV during the
Burmese Socialist days and when the Junta opened up the country in 1988,
Lady AIDS came in and the people label it as Na Wa Ta (meaning
SLORC, State Law and Order Restoration Council)) disease. May be that is
one of the reasons of changing the name from SLORC to the current SPDC.
But the real reason is that the soldiers of Burmese army which has been
using rape as a weapon of war in its ethnic cleansing policy has
contracted AIDS/HIV. Unofficial figures cited is that there are about
400,000 plus soldiers are infected with HIV positive that comes to 12%
of the entire army are tested positive. Perhaps this is one way of the
ethnic resistance paying back this Mudane Tatmadaw meaning rapist
The UN describes as
one of Asia's most serious epidemics and in the late 80s and through 90s
the regime dismissed warnings of an impending HIV/Aids epidemic as
politically motivated, arguing that Burmese society's "impeccable
morals" would protect it. Western donors, frustrated by the generals'
obstinacy on Aids and political reform, said there was little they could
do to help a pariah regime.
But over the last
several years the generals appear to have woken up to the dimensions of
the epidemic and its potentially devastating impact. And while western
countries remain aggrieved by the military's refusal to ease its
oppressive rule, donors are pouring money into the battle. Burma has
little time to lose. Of its 50m people, UNAIDS estimates that about
330,000 - and maybe as many as 620,000 - are infected with the virus.
Adult HIV prevalence is estimated at 1.2 per cent, a generalized
epidemic, and the virus is known to have spread widely. Treatment
options in Burma are almost non-existent for most and prevention remains
the priority. Condoms, once confiscated as evidence of prostitution and
subject to advertising bans, are now widely available thanks to
organizations such as US-based Population Services International (PSI),
which distributes heavily subsidized condoms. In 2003, sales of PSI
condoms, retailing at about 1 cent, hit 18.5m; by 2008 it hopes they
will reach 50m. Now it can be seen selling at the roadside shop.
Generals who used to joke about Thailand as Phar Naing Ngan (prostitute
country) is forced to accept condone donations from Thailand . It has
donated one million baht (US$24,900) to help fight the disease in Burma
and the Generals have to eat a humble pie by listening patiently listen
to the lecture by the Thai minister who warned that HIV/AIDS is among
the biggest problems on the border and asked everyone along the frontier
to use condoms. The strain of HIV prevalent in Burma is probably similar
to that found in neighboring Thailand , which is relatively easily
spread by sexual contact. Burma , however, has preferred to deny that
promiscuity and commercial sex thrive in a Buddhist society. Some of the
current counter-measures are actually counter-productive. Heroin-takers
and prostitutes are simply put in jail. The Burmese military Junta is
sadly a government of concealment.
In Burma , only two
hospitals have AIDS wards, and few citizens can afford the average
$300-a-month cost of anti-retroviral. Many observers blame Burma 's dire
situation on a military government that has allowed the nation's health
care system to decay and that practically ignored AIDS until last year.
The World Health Organization ranked Burma 190 out of 191 member
countries in 2000, above only Sierra Leone . Burma 's life expectancy is
55 years, while the rest of Asia 's is 63. Because the regime tightly
controls information, no one knows how many Burmese are HIV-positive.
UNAIDS estimated 400,000 people were infected by the end of 2001 - just
under 1 percent of those ages 15-49. The Junta has long insisted the
real numbers are much lower because they say Burmese culture stresses
abstinence before marriage and fidelity afterward. The state AIDS
campaigns have urged monogamy and fidelity while excluding the
discussion of condoms or clean needles for drug addicts. However, a 1999
study by Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Hygiene and Public Health who worked with the WHO in Burma ,
suggests that 687,000 Burmese, or nearly 3.5 percent of adults, are
HIV-positive. According to UNAIDS, heterosexuals account for 57 percent
of HIV infections in Burma , followed by drug users at 22 percent.
Tainted blood donations account for 4 percent; homosexual transmission
for 1.2 percent; and the cause of the remaining 13.5 percent was
HIV prevalence is
rising rapidly in Burma , fuelled by population mobility, poverty and
frustration that breeds risky sexual activity and drug-taking. Already,
three in one hundred are estimate to be infected with disease, and
infection rates in sub-populations with especially risky behavior (such
as drug users and sex workers) are among the highest in Asia . Because
of the long lag time between HIV infection and death, the true impact of
the epidemic is just beginning to be felt. Households are losing
breadwinners, children are losing parents, and some of the hardest-hit
communities, particularly some fishing villages with very high losses
from HIV/AIDS, are losing hope. The National AIDS Program, while
professionally competent, is woefully under staffed and under funded and
struggles beneath the weight of its tasks. Burma 's health status has
deteriorated since a military Junta takes over power in 1988. Thousands
of young adults have died without ever having heard of the disease that
killed them, let alone of ways to prevent it. In parts of Myanmar ,
funerals of people in their 20s or 30s are an everyday occurrence.
Political isolation, ethnic conflict, and censorship in Burma has led to
a health crisis and increased the spread of HIV, the London- based
International Center Against Censorship reports.
and outside Burma have expressed their disappointment over the military
regime’s arrest those people who were providing counseling and education
to HIV/AIDS patients. Those who provide their services under the name
“Friends with a Red Ribbon” an international insignia and who have
completed peer education programs with the UNDP, were arrested in
Rangoon on August 13 for not informing local authorities of their
overnight stay in a Buddhist monastery. They were at the monastery to
prepare for a memorial service for those who had died of HIV/AIDS. Than
Naing, one of the arrested members commented, “We are working on this
program not to gain a political advantage. This is a humanitarian issue,
and the authorities should stop this shameful act.” Educational programs
for AIDS are few in Burma and funded by only a handful of foreign aid
agencies after Global Fund, the world’s largest funding body, pulled out
of Burma last year. Travel and other restrictions by the country’s
military-controlled government that impeded the delivery of medical
supplies and services forced them to depart.
There were reports
on the new restrictive guidelines put on organizations working inside
Burma by the new coordinating committee set up to oversee humanitarian
organizations, especially helping AIDS patient. It was shared that the
UN, INGOs (International Non governmental Organizations) and local NGOs
are in the process of consulting in an effort to engage the regime in
dialogue about acceptable operating procedures for providing
humanitarian assistance. It remains unclear how some of the new
guidelines will be implemented as there are 114 international and 393
national organizations operating in the country and requirements such as
monthly reports from each group seems impractical to implement.
international NGOs, including Medecins du Monde, Medecins San Frontiers,
and World Vision, currently have HIV/AIDS programs in Burma , and all
have signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with the Junta. While the
content of these MOUs has not been made public, it is known that meeting
with the pro democracy forces, or cooperating with its members, is not
tolerated by the Junta.
The Junta idea was
that funding for AIDS by international donors should passed only through
them "for they are the monarch of all they survey" whether it
really reached the AIDS patient or not in not your concern. Thus when
Britain's Ambassador Mark Canning meeting those persons who are really
implement the AIDS project they accused Britain of lacking goodwill and
accused them as having a sinister intention of creating disturbances and
instability. Earlier this month Britain announced a 36-million-dollar
contribution to fight the three new diseases including AIDS.
Some groups have
reported that despite the new restrictions it is possible to work and
that groups who work with mostly local staff and in certain areas of the
country are not as susceptible to restrictions. It was shared that one
potentially positive result of the guidelines has been better unity
among the INGOs in the country and growing dialogue with local
organizations. There was an announcement that the Humanitarian Dialogue
Center has closed. MSF France has also announced that it will leave the
ICRC reported that
at the moment they are not conducting jail visits where AIDS is rampant,
in Burma because of lack in agreement on the modalities of these visits.
ICRC is committed to resuming visits as soon as possible but is clear
that these humanitarian assessments need to be independent. Very lately
the Junta has ordered its lackey NGO to implement the cleaning of the
Jails before the ICRC is allowed to go in. But if the Junta really
intend to fight the virus surely it is not by violence as it had done
earlier. Four areas need urgent attention from researchers and the
simple and publicly available methodologies to assess the impact of
HIV/AIDS on the country.
An understanding of
the macroeconomic effects of the epidemic on nations, particularly on
governments and the business and investment environment.
Assessment of the
consequences for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Better analysis and
understanding of the burden shifting between the public and private
sectors and between organizations (public or private including the NLD)
and households and individuals.
of the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School had outlined how the
spread of HIV/AIDS seriously erodes human capacity and adversely affects
"capacity deepening," which is broadly defined as building upon existing
skills in order to increase productivity. Skilled personnel are lost and
valuable labor time is consumed when workers become debilitated, and
work schedules are disrupted when organizations replace workers and
managers who are ill or have died. The loss of capacity reduces economic
What are the
potential remedies? How can the bias against capacity deepening be
reversed? What form of private-public cooperation would decrease the
pressure on the diminishing supply of highly skilled workers? Several
measures will have to be considered:
programs dramatically to protect those who are not HIV-positive.
short-term, repeatable training courses that improve worker efficiency
and morale to help prevent further declines in productivity.
simplify work schedules to economize scarce organizational talent. This
task may require specialized technical assistance.
Expand support by
donor agencies for technical assistance to stabilize the operations of
key organizations (e.g. finance, justice, health and education
other words the Burmese Junta must stop its war on humanitarian concern
and must make a serious commitment for Violence cannot fight the Virus.
Burnaby B C