The Myanmar government will give free medicine called pre-exposure prophylaxis to those who are most vulnerable to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which afflicts nearly a quarter of a million people in the country, a senior health official said.
Dr Tun Nyunt Oo, director of the National AIDS Programme, said it is the first time Myanmar will provide free medicine for HIV, which infected 11,000 people in Myanmar in 2018.
About 240,000 people were living with HIV and an estimated 7800 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in Myanmar in 2018.
After Thailand, Myanmar has the second-highest HIV rate in Southeast Asia, according to Avert, a global charity that specialises in HIV-AIDS.
“Although sustained and focused efforts to reach key populations have led to major reductions in HIV infections between 2010 and 2017, Myanmar continues to display a high incidence of new HIV infections,” it said.
Dr Tun Nyunt Oo said the target groups for the project are people with a high risk of contracting the disease, such as drug addicts, male homosexuals, transvestites, and male and female sex workers. “We started distributing the drugs to vulnerable groups in Yangon Region on July 31,” he added.
The project is a joint effort of the National AIDS Programme, the Global Fund and PSI, which is a partner of the USAID HIV/AIDS Flagship Project.
Dispensaries for the project will include Yangon General Hospital, the AIDS prevention team in Myitta Nyunt, TOP Centre Myanmar, MAM Clinic and Tun Clinic 3. The medicine is also available at the Public Health Department in Myitkyina and Waingmaw in Kachin State.
The medicine, which is a combination of two drugs, has been found effective in preventing 90 percent of HIV infections from sex and 70pc of infections from injecting drugs when taken daily.
It is more effective if combined with the use of condoms, according to health officials.
Those who want to take the drugs need to have a consultation with health workers, and a careful examination for diseases like HIV, hepatitis or other sexually transmitted diseases. They must also undergo a check-up to ensure they have functioning kidneys.
Side effects of the drugs may include nausea, headache, fatigue, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite, but they usually clear up within a week. – Translated