Lack of Funding Contributing to AIDS-Related Deaths in Myanmar, Group Says
Thousands of HIV-positive people in Myanmar are dying because not enough funding is being allocated by the government for treatment, Medecins Sans Frontieres said last week, the New York Times reports. MSF said that about 240,000 people in Myanmar are living with HIV and that of the 76,000 who need antiretroviral treatment, only about 15,000 are receiving it with MSF paying for 11,000. Officials with MSF said they are only able to work in some parts of the country and are having to turn away new patients. Joe Belliveau, MSF's operations manager for Myanmar, said, "It is unacceptable that a single [nongovernmental organization] is treating the vast majority of HIV patients in a crisis of this magnitude."
According to MSF officials, the government spends about 70 cents per citizen for health care annually and most people cannot afford the cheapest antiretroviral regimen from private physicians, which costs about $30 monthly. According to the Times, funding for HIV/AIDS drugs is available through the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but only governments can apply for it. Governments also must prove that the funding will not be used inappropriately or corruptly. The Times reports that the military government of Myanmar "has a long record of watching indifferently as its citizens die" (McNeil, New York Times, 12/2).