USAID Asks Congress for $1M Grant to Myanmar, Southeast Asia’s HIV/AIDS ‘Epicenter’USAID officials on Wednesday asked the House Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific to appropriate $1 million for fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Myanmar, which they believe has become the "center of the disease" in Southeast Asia, Reuters reports (Reuters, 6/19). Karen Turner, deputy assistant administrator at USAID's Bureau for Asia and the Near East, testified that HIV surveillance data in Myanmar "clearly indicate a serious epidemic that has spread from known high-risk groups into the general population" (Turner testimony, 6/19). She added that Myanmar, not Cambodia, is now thought to be the "epicenter" of HIV/AIDS in the region and that up to 4% of the country's population is likely to be infected with the virus. The U.S. funding would be part of the approximately $35 million Myanmar needs to "effectively combat the disease" and would be used to start a primary prevention program targeting prostitutes and drug users, to educate the general population and to train health care providers. Since 1998, the United States has prohibited grant programs to Myanmar and maintained an arms embargo, an investment ban and visa restrictions against the nation because of human rights violations and drug trafficking problems there. But in May, after the government released the leader of the opposition party from house arrest, the Bush administration said it would consider grants to nongovernmental organizations in Myanmar that specifically fought HIV/AIDS. Members of the subcommittee were "generally receptive" to the funding request, Reuters reports (Reuters, 6/19).
Grant From Australia
In related news, government officials said Australia will give about $3.35 million to Myanmar to help fight HIV/AIDS and train government officials on the protection of human rights, according to a report from the Myanmar Times, Xinhua News reports. The money would fund the United Nations' and international non-governmental organizations' projects that seek to reduce the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The grant will also pay for child health projects and human rights workshops (Xinhua News, 6/20).