Feature story

Myanmar’s national plan for AIDS confirms commitment to reach universal access by 2015

01 July 2011

Dr Pe Thet Khin, Minister of Health at the launch of the National Strategic Plan for AIDS.

Myanmar’s AIDS response received a boost with the launch of the new National Strategic Plan for AIDS, which reconfirmed the country’s commitment to reach universal access to HIV services by 2015.

“The Ministry of Health is committed to support the efforts of all partners and work in multi-sector partnership to reach programme targets by 2015,” said Dr Pe Thet Khin, Minister of Health, at the launch of the plan which took place in early June on the sidelines of a multi-sectoral workshop on AIDS hosted by the Ministry of Health.

More than 120 officials, development partners and civil society representatives, including high ranking representatives of government and UN, participated in the workshop to agree on strategies for ensuring maximum implementation of the new Plan.

“The collaborative efforts of all partners in developing the AIDS strategic plan and commitment shown by many government sectors is one of the best examples in development work in this country,” said Mr Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar.

Speaking at the launch, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, Dr Nafis Sadik, who was visiting Myanmar as part of an official UN mission on AIDS, urged all partners to be involved in roll out activities. “Government, non-government organizations, community-based organizations, people living with HIV, professional associations, and the private sector all have their role to play in helping expand the effectiveness and scale up of HIV programmes,” she said.

The Ministry of Health is committed to support the efforts of all partners and work in multi-sector partnership to reach programme targets by 2015

Dr Pe Thet Khin, Myanmar Minister of Health

In 2010, there were an estimated 236,000 people living with HIV in Myanmar. Despite limited resources, Myanmar has made significant progress in its national AIDS response. There are more people on antiretroviral treatment than ever before—in 2010 some 30 000 out of the 76 000 people in need of HIV treatment, and there are some signs that HIV prevalence among key populations has begun to decline. Nevertheless, prevalence among on populations at higher risk remains high. According to the 2009 HIV sentinel surveillance data, HIV prevalence among female sex workers is 11.2%; people who inject drugs is 34.6%; men who have sex with men is 22.3%—making it evident that more needs to be done to ensure their access to HIV services.

“Protecting the rights of people living with HIV and affected populations—including people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and transgender people—is not only the right thing to do, but is necessary to ensure that people are able to benefit from HIV services,” noted Mr Clifton Cortez, Asia-Pacific Regional Practice leader for HIV and Health of UNDP who joined Dr Sadik and Mr Gary Lewis, Regional Representative of UNODC for East Asia and the Pacific on the three-day UN country visit. 

At the close of the National Plan launch workshop, participants adopted a Statement expressing their commitment to redouble their efforts to the AIDS response in Myanmar and to reach the Plan’s 2015 targets. They also agreed to review laws and create a more enabling environment to help increase scale and efficiency of programmes.

With the Plan now officially in place, similar workshops will be organized in different states and regions in the country to raise awareness of its targets and priority HIV activities.

“I am encouraged to see everyone coming together and voicing their support to the AIDS response. It gives us new energy to continue to expand the AIDS programme in Myanmar,” said Thiha Kyaing, Chair of Myanmar Positive Group, the national network for people living with HIV in Myanmar. 

Implementation of the full Plan requires the total budget of US$ 344 million from 2011 to 2015. “If the government and international development partners commit to provide the needed resources for implementing the new strategic plan, Myanmar will most likely be able to maintain its achievement and scale-up HIV service provision to reach their targets by 2015,” said Dr Sadik.