Burma: AIDS Epidemic
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Joe Belliveau, operations manager, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Amsterdam
SEN LAM: So the government has responded to your call for it to start funding and supporting these programs?
JOE BELLIVEAU: No, the funding falls well short of what's needed. What I mean is more that the government has started a program at all. So in fact they have about 2,000 patients on treatment. At this moment in time there are about 76,000 people in Burma who are in desperate need of antiretroviral treatment. That means they've reached the life-threatening stage of the disease and if they don't get ART very soon they're going to die. So the government has about 2,000 patients on antiretrovirals. MSF has about 11,000 and there are a few other organisations that have very low numbers of people on ART so you can see the gap between what's needed urgently and it's huge compared to what's offered.
SEN LAM: And, Joe Belliveau, you've impressed on the Burmese junta the urgency of the problem, as you've just said. Burma's junta didn't listen to the world post cyclone Nargis. What makes you think they will change their minds now and start listening now?
SEN LAM: And, Joe, I understand HIV infection rates are rising in Asia according to the World Health Organisation, so is the message of prevention and safe sex not getting through?
JOE BELLIVEAU: There are quite a few programs run through non-governmental organisations in Burma. I don't know about neighbouring countries so much but I know in Burma there is a fair amount going into the prevention side of things but at a time when the immediate crisis is so massive, I mean it's not time for prevention. Those kind of programs should go, they should be happening but it's time now for treatment. Treatment is there, it's not that expensive, it can be delivered in an efficient manner and it's really time now for people to start treating people with HIV AIDS.