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Engaging and coordinating on Comprehensive Condom Programming

To coordinate HIV prevention activities, a two day meeting with UNFPA’s partners on Comprehensive Condom Programming (CCP) was held in Yangon from 18-19 May 2015. More than 50 focal persons from the National AIDS programme (NAP) and other UNFPA partners attended.

The status of HIV prevention activities at 34 UNFPA supported townships was reviewed, including current on-going activities to improve the availability of sexual and reproductive health services; central to which were the prevention of HIV and determining strategies to reach key populations. During the meeting, guidelines to effectively implement condom programmes were discussed. Participants shared their experiences on outreach activities, constraints in conducting Township Working Groups (TWGs), peer education programmes and services for the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

In addition, they highlighted results achieved in 2014 as well as lessons learned including that; the involvement of entertainment owners in condom programmes is essential to ensure that key populations, for example entertainment girls and their partners, have access to HIV testing; demand creation by peer educators must be continuously supported by the responsible health staff; and administrative support from TWG members, especially local authorities and police, is important for condom distribution. To increase the availability and the use of integrated sexual and reproductive health services including family planning, maternal health and HIV prevention, UNFPA has been distributing quality condoms and providing technical and financial assistance through the NAP and community based organisations in 34 townships. 

Dr. Khin San Aye, Nay Pyi Taw NAP focal person, gave an overview on the current HIV situation in Myanmar, trends of HIV prevalence among female sex workers, condom distribution and essential activities of targeted condom programmes. In addition, the meeting highlighted constraints in condom distribution such as crackdowns by the police, significant increases or decreases in condom use and any reduction in STIs. 

Daw Ni Ni Khaing, National Programme Officer (HIV) from UNFPA said: “Comprehensive condom programmes and procurement links assist and strengthen TWG participation and build strong relationships among all stakeholders in HIV prevention activities”. She continued that these programmes provide a means to coordinate and share information with all stakeholders and look at ways to move forward. An example of this was the need to involve police forces and local authorities in improving acceptability of condoms and reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with condom use. This was particularly pertinent in light of the crackdown on the sale of condoms reported in the media this year prior to Thingyan. Showing appreciation for their commitment, UNFPA awarded 3 prizes. These went to the best performing TWG, the TWG that had reached the highest number of sex workers, and the TWG that had distributed the highest number of condoms in 2014. 

Dr. Ye Paing, Team leader from Insein Township, Yangon, which received the award for the Best Performing TWG, said: “I believe cooperation and coordination among health and non-health sectors is extremely important. I was able to get all key stakeholders on board”. His TWG was made up of different stakeholders including township police forces, local administrative authorities, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA), Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation and legal departments. This highlighted that successful, coordinated condom programmes are dependent on a wide range of stakeholders working together.