Myanmar Government Officials Concealing AIDS Statistics, Study Says
The government of Myanmar has been "falsifying" AIDS statistics to "hide evidence that the disease has reached epidemic levels there," according to a report by Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the New York Times reports. Beyrer's study, which was scheduled to be presented yesterday at the U.N. General Assembly special session on AIDS, found that about 3.5% of Myanmar adults are HIV-positive. These statistics would indicate that Myanmar harbors the "second-worst" case of the epidemic in Southeast Asia, behind Cambodia, where the infection rate is about 4% of adults, the Times reports. Beyrer's findings are "broadly" supported by UNAIDS, which found that in 1999 -- the year on which Beyrer's study is based -- Myanmar had about 48,000 AIDS-related deaths, while the Myanmar government reported only 802 such deaths that year. But in Beyrer's investigation, he used the government's own figures on HIV infection, which the Health Ministry has been collecting at clinics and hospitals since the mid-1980s. Beyrer noted that health officials have compiled "accurate numbers ... only to have them brushed aside by the country's military leadership." He added, "The bottom-line issue here is that people who know about the HIV epidemic in the region are very concerned about the situation in [Myanmar]," noting the government's "ominous silence" about AIDS statistics (Crossette, New York Times, 6/25).
Myanmar and Thailand Launch Joint Health Program
Meanwhile, Thailand Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan has announced a "first-ever" joint program between Thai and Myanmar health officials to curb "border health problems," such as HIV/AIDS, with are "soaring because of an influx of illegal immigrants," the Bangkok Post reports. The program, set to be implemented next month, will target HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Sudarat said, "Instead of individually campaigning as earlier, the joint campaign is expected to be more effective in increasing awareness against diseases among people moving between the two countries" (Bangkok Post, 6/22).