Empowering people living with HIV to end stigma and discrimination

1 December 2015

Yangon - People living with HIV and key populations at risk need to be empowered to help end stigma, discrimination and violence, as well as advocate for the removal of punitive measures against them. A sex worker who is living with HIV said: "People see us in a negative way. If they hear of a sex worker living with HIV, she is treated like an outcast."

Across the country, HIV prevalence rates are decreasing. According to the National AIDS Programme in Myanmar, there were almost 212,000 people living with HIV in Myanmar in 2014; 34 per cent of whom were females. An estimated 9,000 new infections occurred in 2014. The HIV epidemic in Myanmar is largely concentrated among key populations, such as female sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. 

UNFPA is now leading the way in integrating HIV and Maternal and Child Health programmes. Dr Ni Ni Khaing, a programme officer at UNFPA, explained: "Previously, all health services such as HIV testing, reproductive health and Tuberculosis (TB) ran parallel programmes. We now intend to integrate these so that they are "one stop services", where HIV testing, diagnosis, counselling and treatment for TB, as well as information and services on birth spacing are all available." 

At the street level, members of key populations spoke about their everyday life, and all agreed that things had improved. Sex Workers in Myanmar (SWIM), said: "HIV education programmes can greatly contribute to zero new infections, and zero deaths. Now, most sex workers use condoms and urge their clients to do so. However, we also have to look at one important issues, the rate of infection among married women as they do not receive education about HIV prevention".