AIDS in Burma

   Burma has one of the highest instances of acquired immunity deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Southeast Asia. Unsafe sexual practices (prophylactics are scarce and expensive, and sex education almost nonexistent) and the widespread use of heroin injected with unsanitary needles have resulted in an explosion of cases, as many as 600,000 AIDS/HIV-positive persons in 2005. The State Peace and Development Council has generally been slow in adopting effective countermeasures. However, several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have begun to address the problem. AIDS is closely tied to poverty. Among the major spreaders of the AIDS virus are truck drivers who patronize sex workers while on the road. In the past, prostitutes were rare outside the big cities, but village women have entered the trade in increasing numbers because of the stagnating rural economy, meaning that truck drivers have greater access to sex workers. Because the SPDC invests very little in public health, treatment is almost nonexistent. The poor state of AIDS awareness has hastened its spread far beyond the world of drug addicts and brothels; for example, razors used to shave the heads of young monks during the ceremonies associated with shinbyu are sometimes infected, making them HIV-positive. Critics of sanctions claim that trade embargoes against Burmese exports (mostly garments destined for the United States) have put tens of thousands of factory women out of work, driving them into the sex industry and worsening the AIDS epidemic.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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