`Myanmar desperate for HIV and TB drugs`

Bangkok: Some 85,000 HIV-infected people in Myanmar are not getting treatment due to a lack of funding, despite renewed international engagement with the government amid a wave of political reform, a medical aid group said Wednesday.

Doctors Without Borders warned in its report that the situation in Myanmar could worsen after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria cut funding worldwide because of a shortfall in donations.

The money was expected to provide HIV drugs for 46,500 people in Myanmar and help treat another 10,000 sickened by drug-resistant tuberculosis, the report said.

Cases of tuberculosis - a major killer of HIV patients - in Myanmar are nearly triple the global rate, as difficult-to-treat forms of the disease that do not respond to common treatment surge.

In 2009, the U.N. estimated 240,000 people were infected with HIV and about 18,000 were dying from it annually in Myanmar, which has one of the world`s worst health systems.

Doctors Without Borders provides antiretroviral drugs to about 23,000 people at 23 clinics nationwide, funding more than half of all HIV treatment being provided to nearly 40,000 patients, said Peter Paul de Groote, who heads the organization`s Myanmar operation.

Myanmar receives a fraction of the international aid provided elsewhere, largely because many nations did not support the former reclusive military government that ruled for nearly half a century. But last year, a nominally civilian government took office and launched unexpected reforms that have been applauded by the international community.

"Regardless of what is happening in the country, the people that are in need of treatment, need treatment," de Groote said by phone. "Of course, we all hope that the developments as they seem to be going in that direction will lead to more money into the country, but, in general, I think this money should be coming in regardless of what the situation is."

Bureau Report