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HIV/AIDS trainings decrease shame and increase treatment

Reported by:

Jaloon Htaw

Frequent trainings on HIV/AIDS education and awareness in Mon State by one organization appear to be successful in encouraging HIV positive individuals to seek care and treatment, after increased numbers of cases reported being less ashamed to seek treatment.

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) conducts HIV/AIDS education and awareness trainings six times per month in villages throughout Mon State, according to a member of IOM working in Mudon township.

The IOM has been working in Mon State on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment since 2006, and began providing Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART), a life-prolonging treatment for individuals who are HIV/AIDS positive, in 2008.

“…We support them [HIV positive individuals] with nutritional supplements, in the form of food, vitamins and minerals, every month,” explained an IOM employee working in Mon State. “Also, if the person needs ART medicine, we supply the needed ART treatment every month. We also now have individuals that are over forty years of age seeking support from IOM. Now more villagers have an increased understanding of HIV.”

The IOM operates throughout Mon State, including Moulmein, Mudon, Thanphyuzayart, Kyaikmayaw, Ye and Beelin township.

The trainings appear to be increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS among villagers. IOM’s list of people with HIV/AIDS in Mon State that have come forward to seek treatment is increasing.

This year IOM has already provided support in Mon State to 800 individuals with HIV/AIDS. Last year the IOM only provided support to approximately 500 individuals with HIV/AIDS.

“Even though the number of HIV positive cases is increasing [according to local hospitals], some people are still reluctant to reveal their HIV or AIDS status or seek treatment from IOM because they are ashamed of others knowing about their disease,” One staff member of IOM from Ye Township told IMNA.  “We [at IOM] do not know how many people have HIV in Mon State. However, more HIV positive people are seeking support from us.”

She added, “Those people who are knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS come and seek support from us. Thirty people have joined us [from Ye Township] this year.”

According to one man who is suffering from AIDS in Mudon township, because of an IOM training  on HIV/AIDS, he no longer feels ashamed of having HIV, and has approached IOM for support.

“At first, when I had HIV, I didn’t want to tell other people. Now, after an IOM training, I know that if we [HIV positive individuals] take ART, we can live a long, healthy life like other people. So I approached IOM for support. I started taking ART a short while back”, an IOM beneficiary said.

According to UNICEF, there were a projected 240,000 HIV/AIDS cases in Burma in 2007. PHOEWA, a Burmese news blog citing a UNICEF report, stated that of HIV/AIDS cases in Burma, 100,000 of the cases are women and 160,000 cases are youth. According to Weekly Eleven, a Burma based news magazine, 25,000 people die in Burma each year from AIDS.

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