Thousands Die Needlessly Because Junta Spends Too Little on AIDS, Group Says
About 240,000 people in Myanmar are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, and about 76,000 are sick enough to need antiretroviral treatment, the group said. But only about 15,000 are getting it, and Doctors Without Borders is paying for 11,000.
The nongovernmental organization, which is allowed to work in only some parts of the country, is overwhelmed and is having to turn new patients away.
“It is unacceptable that a single N.G.O. is treating the vast majority of H.I.V. patients in a crisis of this magnitude,” said Joe Belliveau, the charity’s operations manager for Myanmar.
Many Burmese cannot afford the $30 a month for the cheapest antiretroviral regimen from private doctors. Myanmar’s government, run by a secretive military junta, has a long record of watching indifferently as its citizens die. In May, after a cyclone swept through the Irrawaddy Delta, leaving up to one million people homeless, it refused to let foreign aid workers in. Last year, it brutally put down antigovernment demonstrations by monks.
According to Doctors Without Borders, the Myanmar government spends only 70 cents per citizen for health care each year. Money for AIDS drugs is available from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but governments, not charities, must apply for it, and they must prove that the money will not be diverted to corrupt ends.