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2005-06-20-HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Burma Fueled by Denial, Lack of Government Action
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Burma -- also known as Myanmar -- is "being fueled by a mixture of ignorance, denial and lack of government action," which is a "dangerous cocktail" that could result in an HIV/AIDS prevalence consistent with some African nations, the... Bangkok Post reports.
According to international aid workers, about two-thirds of commercial sex workers in the capital city of Rangoon are HIV-positive and an estimated one-fifth of pregnant women in the commercial town of Lashio are infected with the virus.
Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health who has worked with the World Health Organization in Burma, estimates that more than 10% of adults in the country are HIV-positive.
If present trends continue, as much as one-quarter of the population of Burma could be affected by HIV/AIDS within the next 10 years, according to the Post. Although the Burmese military government recently has supported HIV/AIDS educational campaigns, including billboards in many urban centers, the government remains in a "state of denial," saying that Burma's "culture and religion" limit the spread of the virus, according to the Post.
According to a former Rangoon aid worker, HIV/AIDS in the country is "a time bomb that has been ticking away for more than a decade and it is about to explode" (Jagan, Bangkok Post, 6/10).
The Burmese government says more than 300,000 of the country's 54 million people are HIV-positive, but UNAIDS estimates that twice as many people ages 15 to 49 are living with the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/18).