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Report: Myanmar HIV/AIDS treatment crisis deepens

  • Story Highlights
  • HIV/AIDS treatment in Myanmar needs to improve drastically says a report
  • More than 25,000 people will die this year if these people don't get treatment
  • Doctors Without Borders is almost the sole supplier of aid and need funding
  • Government and international community need to give more money
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By Patrice Poltzer
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LONDON, England -- Almost 25,000 people will die this year of HIV/AIDS in Myanmar unless lifesaving treatment is significantly increased, according to a new report.

Myanmar is in desperate need of more funding for HIV/AIDS treatment, according to a new report.

A Doctors Without Borders worker handing out HIV/AIDS drugs in Myanmar.

The study produced by leading international humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders said the failure by the government to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to its people is putting the population at risk.

An estimated 240,000 people are thought to have HIV/AIDS in Myanmar with 76,000 of those people facing death unless they receive antiretroviral (ART) drug, the report published Tuesday said.

Fewer than 20 percent of the people are are able to access ART, according to the organization.

Currently, Doctors Without Borders says it is almost the sole provider of these lifesaving drugs --providing them to more than 11,000 people.

"It is unacceptable that a single NGO is treating the vast majority of HIV patients in a crisis of this magnitude," the charity's Operations Manager Joe Belliveau, said in a press release.

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The pressure on its resources means the charity has been forced to turn away patients.

"Sometimes I wake up at midnight and dream of my patients. Women who come in are HIV positive --they have three children at home and the husband has passed away and we cannot provide any treatment for them," a doctor quoted in the research said.

The government and international communities have provided very little to the crisis, Belliveau added.

The government of Myanmar allocated just $200,000 for HIV/AIDS in 2008, which is one of the lowest amount spent worldwide, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Drugs that are not provided by aid organizations or the government cost a patient $29 per month. With most people in Myanmar living on an average of $1.20 per day, the cost of drugs is unaffordable for most.

The charity also appealed for intervention by the international community to avert the crisis. Myanmar currently receives around $3 per person in aid-- one of the lowest rates worldwide.

One reason for this may be that international donor groups are reluctant to send aid to Myanmar, a country run by a strict military junta widely criticized for its atrocious human rights record.

The report states aid agencies may be put off by challenges Myanmar imposes such as strict constraints and difficult bureaucratic procedures.

Earlier this year when a deadly cyclone hit Myanmar that killed almost 100,000 people and left millions homeless, the government turned away international aid to the frustration of many organizations.

Doctors Without Borders has been providing essential healthcare services in Myanmar since 1993 and began an integrated program in 2003 to support people living with HIV/AIDS.

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