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February 26, 2018

HIV/AIDS flagship UHF project commences

The launch ceremony of the HIV/AIDS Flagship (UHF) project, with a fund of US$10 million and backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was held at Sedona Hotel, Yangon, yesterday.
The two-year project (2018-2019) is being executed in places with the highest rates of HIV infection: Kachin and Shan states, and the Sagaing, Yangon and Mandalay regions.
The project aims to scale up HIV prevention, testing and treatment services by utilising non-governmental organisations and private sector health providers for people living with HIV and key populations, people who inject drugs (PWID), women sex workers, LGBDQ, and transgender people.
The funding from the UHF project will enable partner organisations to develop new outreach and adherence strategies, including social media outreach, common elements treatment approach, mental health counselling and research on transgender people.
The UHF project will also expand the current PWID coverage for methadone maintenance treatment and harm reduction services.
The project is funded by USAID under the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, through the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Myanmar. UNAIDS is overseeing the project, while Community Partners International (CPI) is providing project implementation support and management to five partner organisations: Asian Harm Reduction Network, Medical Action Myanmar, Médecins du Monde, Metta Development Foundation and Population Services International.
“HIV care and prevention services vary depending on organisations. Therefore, organisations tend to refer themselves. Data sharing has become strong due to the concerted efforts of the five groups in this project.
The projects will reach more HIV patients and better treatment will be provided. There are other benefits of cooperation also,” said Dr Khiang Thandar Hnin, medical coordinator, Médecins du Monde. The UHF Project aligns with the goals of Myanmar’s National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS 2016-2020 (HIV NSP III), developed by Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports. By focusing primarily on outreach and linkage to care, the UHF project will complement other HIV/AIDS initiatives funded by the Global Fund and Three Millennium Development Goal Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
“There are many challenges in providing HIV treatment services, from giving tablets to psychological counselling and receiving treatment. There are some inappropriate cultural and unlawful actions in psychological counselling,” said Dr Si Thura, CPI.
According to Myanmar’s National Strategic Plan on HIV NSP III, there are an estimated 224,794 people living with HIV in Myanmar, with key populations bearing a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The estimated HIV prevalence rates among people who inject drugs, women sex workers and men who have sex with men in Myanmar are 28.5 per cent, 14.6 per cent and 11.6 per cent, respectively. The HIV prevalence can also vary depending on geographical regions.
Under the five-year plan of HIV NSP III, some $460 million is required to carry out activities to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, said Dr Htun Nyunt Oo, programme manager of the National AIDS Programme.
Myanmar is ranked 25 in the list of global countries having a high rate of HIV prevalence. The rate of new patients with HIV infection dropped by 26 per cent in 2016, compared with 2010. Similarly, the death toll due to AIDS-related diseases plunged by 52 per cent.
Dr Myint Htwe and Mr. Scot Marciel, American Ambassador to Myanmar, also attended the launch ceremony of the UHF project.

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