Thailand Provides Antiretroviral Drugs, Condoms to Myanmar
Health officials from Thailand on Wednesday delivered one million condoms and a supply of antiretroviral drugs to neighboring Myanmar in an effort to curb the spread of HIV among migrant workers, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan and other officials delivered $242,000 in aid, including enough generic antiretrovirals to treat 200 patients. The drugs represent the first part of a three-year supply commitment from Thailand, according to the AP/Yahoo! News (AP/Yahoo! News, 9/22). Currently, about 620,000 Myanmarese ages 15 to 49 are HIV-positive, about double the number two years ago, according to Agence France-Presse. The HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers in the country is estimated to be between 20% to 30%, and almost 75% of injection drug users in some areas of Myanmar are HIV-positive, according to Agence France-Presse. Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, aims to provide antiretroviral treatment to 2,000 HIV-positive people by the end of this year and 12,000 people by the end of 2005 (Agence France-Presse, 9/22).
Thailand has reduced HIV prevalence rates through national initiatives that promote condom use and treatment programs that offer pregnant women access to drugs that prevent vertical HIV transmission. Approximately one million of Thailand's 62 million people are HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6). Thai health officials are worried that diseases such as HIV/AIDS are being reintroduced into the country through the approximately one million migrant workers that come from Myanmar to work in the country, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. According to Charal Trinvuthipong, director general of Thailand's Communicable Disease Control Center, more cases of HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis and malaria are found along the 1,500-mile border between the two countries than within the country. "If we don't cooperate to solve these problems ... apart from making it difficult to control and prevent diseases, it will force Thailand to bear the burden of treating migrant workers for free," Sudarat said (AP/Yahoo! News, 9/22).
Public Health Systems
Although Thailand has an "extensive and well-trained" public health system, "cash-strapped" Myanmar lacks such an infrastructure, according to the AP/Yahoo! News (AP/Yahoo! News, 9/22). According to statements made by UNAIDS officials at the XV International AIDS Conference held in Bangkok, Thailand, in July, Myanmar's public health system cannot handle the epidemic, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 9/22). The Thai health ministry plans to continue to seek financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the World Health Organization to continue to provide antiretroviral drugs and develop health infrastructure in Myanmar, the Bangkok Post reports. The Global Fund previously rejected a grant proposal from Thailand because the government failed to clarify the importance of its efforts to begin joint cooperation with Myanmar or sufficiently show how the funds would be used to curb the spread of HIV along the countries' border, according to the Post. The ministry plans to amend the proposal and resubmit it to the Global Fund for a decision during its fifth round of grants, which is expected to be announced next year, Petchsri Sirinirund, the Disease Control Department's senior expert in preventive medicine, said, the Post reports (Treerutkuarkul, Bangkok Post, 9/23).