REGIONAL NEWS & SPECIAL REPORTS -
REGIONAL NEWS & SPECIAL REPORTS
Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 21 December 2010 06:12
AsiaViews, Edition: 32/II/August/2005
HIV/AIDS funding for Burma is under threat from efforts in Washington DC to regulate the UN more strictly in its dealings with the junta, the chair of the Fund for HIV/AIDS in Myanmar [Burma], Jean-Luc Lemahieu, has told The Irrawaddy.
Humanitarian organizations in Burma say the UN Development Program is facing calls from US government officials to abide by its own strict terms of engagement with the junta. Should UNDP be forced to follow its own rules, which it set for itself in 2001, aid agencies say it would no longer be able to act as the main holding body for HIV/AIDS funds in Burma, a role which requires direct consultation with Burma?s Ministry of Health. The UN agency?s main self-imposed rule is that it cannot deal directly with any Burmese government office.
Experts suggest there are few alternatives open to the UNDP because of the delicate political situation in the country, causing many humanitarian organizations in Burma to warn of a potential ?humanitarian disaster.?
?Nobody in Burma with AIDS or at risk of HIV will benefit from a financial aid boycott,? said a senior HIV/AIDS humanitarian worker in Rangoon.
The driving force behind the maneuvers taking place on Washington?s Capitol Hill?as a result of lobbying by rights groups?is reported to be Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, an outspoken backer of sanctions against the Burmese regime. Senator McConnell?s office was unavailable for comment.
Burma?s HIV/AIDS programs attract the majority of funding through two channels?FHAM, a grouping of UN departments, non-governmental organizations, European governments and the Burmese Health Ministry, along with the Geneva-based Global Fund, a financial aid body set up in 2002 to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. This money is then held by UNDP which distributes it to HIV/AIDS projects throughout the country, a system described as ?good? by one other humanitarian organization.
?There was hope and optimism that efforts to combat HIV in Myanmar [Burma] would supersede what is happening there,? Rosie Vanek of Global Fund said. ?Like many countries where there is a complex political situation, yes, it is controversial. There has been criticism in the past,? she confirmed, refusing to elaborate on whether Global Fund would have to pull out of Burma.
Global Fund money is particularly under threat, experts say, as it is understood to have insisted UNDP act as fund intermediary before it agreed to involvement in Burma.
?FHAM could send their money through another channel; the Global Fund probably not,? the senior HIV/AIDS humanitarian worker said.
At stake is at least US $35 million that has already been allocated by Global Fund. But humanitarian workers in Burma say the total that could be lost as a direct result of US pressure would be much higher should UNDP pull out of its current role, as many donors are unwilling to give money straight to the junta.
Funding in 2004 led to the provision of an estimated 32.6 million condoms, the distribution/exchange of 430,000 needles for drug users and free antiretroviral drugs for confirmed HIV/AIDS patients. The senior HIV/AIDS worker said the withdrawal of UNDP would mean ?less money for an already poorly funded AIDS program in Myanmar [Burma]. Or to put it more simply?more people with HIV and more people who die from AIDS.?
According to latest UNAIDS figures, Burma had between 170,000-610,000 people infected with HIV/AIDS in July 2004, compared to a Burmese government estimate of 340,000 people.
While the numbers are relatively low compared to sub-Saharan Africa, Burma?s lethal mix of poverty, inadequate state health care, along with rampant intravenous drug use and prostitution in some areas means ?Myanmar [Burma] faces an epidemic with the potential to be one of the most serious in Asia,? according to UNAIDS.
By: Clive Parker
The Irrawaddy August 10, 2005
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 December 2010 06:12 )