HIV/AIDS in Burma and neighbouring regions: Widening the space for harm reduction

09 November 2006 - Event
Date
09 November 2006

Transnational Institute (TNI) / Burma Center Netherlands (BCN) in cooperation with Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN)

Conference programme:

09.00 Coffee / tea.

09.30 - 11.30:
HIV/AIDS, drug use and harm reduction policies and practices in Burma and neighbouring countries. Panel with Ton Smits / AHRN, Burmese speaker, Raju Singh /North East India Harm Reduction Network, Thai speaker and Duo Lin / ARHP Yunnan China.

11.45 - 13.00:
Burma: The humanitarian aid debate, Global Fund, 3D Fund and INGOs. Panel with Jean-Luc Lemahieu / UNODC, Harn Yawnghwe / Euro Burma Office, Dr. Khin Zaw Win, Willy De Maere / AHRN.

13.00 - 14.00: Lunch

14.00 - 15.30: Realities on the ground. Panel with People Living with Aids / Burma, and people involved in harm reduction projects with drug users and sex workers.

16.00 - 17.30: Recommendations followed by launch of BCN CD-Rom toolkit.

Please register your participation at: bcn [at] xs4all.nl

Background

Drug use and sex work are fuelling the HIV and AIDS epidemics in Burma and its neighbouring countries. In combination with a high mobility of people, HIV prevalence rates are increasing rapidly and as a result we are about to arrive at a déjà vu of more regions and countries with generalised HIV and AIDS.

Current programmes are only a drop in the ocean as they can reach only a small proportion of injecting drug users (IDUs) and sex workers (SW). While governments are slow to respond, INGOs, NGOs and Grassroots Organisations are under resourced and overburdened. UNAIDS has warned that Burma is close to the tipping point, where the critical mass of infection becomes so great that the epidemic is self-sustaining in the general population, even in the event of a significant reduction in risk behaviour in the most vulnerable sub-populations, such as IDUs and SWs. In addition to the challenges of HIV and AIDS, the twin epidemics confront us with co-infections of Hepatitis C and opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis (TB) including the highly fatal XDR TB strain. Combined these disease form an imminent public health threat, which is likely to add significantly to the burden of disease and with the real potential to undermine development efforts till date. To effectively address the spiralling numbers of HIV and AIDS, TB and Hepatitis infected IDUs, it is of critical importance for all stakeholders involved to acknowledge the HIV and AIDS epidemic and the need for evidence based policies and interventions, both in Burma and its neighbouring countries. While the need for an adequate and immediate response to the public health crisis in Burma is clear, a number of factors have limited the scope and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance in the country. To ensure sufficient and long-term financial support for HIV and AIDS and harm reduction programmes the international community has to make a firm commitment to stem and reverse the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Burma.

In November TNI/BCN will bring people working on harm reduction programmes and HIV/AIDS in Burma and in neighbouring countries to the Netherlands for an exchange and lobby visit. The Netherlands has been one of the pioneering countries regarding the development of harm reduction policy concepts and practices. During the visit participants will learn about history and recent developments in harm reduction programmes in the Netherlands. Through the participation of journalists from the region this information will be distributed to a wider public in Asia.

The participants will speak at a public conference and raise awareness in Europe about the HIV/AIDS situation and harm reduction policies in Burma and neighbouring regions in Northeast-India, China and Thailand. The conference and lobby visits are expected to lay the basis for an increase in space and funding for harm reduction policies in Burma and neighbouring countries. Consultation and involvement of local organisations is key to a successful shaping of future harm reduction policies and practices. This programme is funded by NCDO, ICCO, KerkinActie, OxfamNovib and DFID-UK.