Myanmar sees rise in HIV infection among wives

Red ribbons, a symbol of solidarity for people living with HIV/AIDS.
PHOTO: Myanmar sees rise in HIV infection among wives

Myanmar is seeing a rise in the number of wives infected with HIV by their husbands, while those under the age of 24 remain the most vulnerable to infection by the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), according to a new report from the World Health Organisation

The report adopts the Asian epidemiological model for projections and estimate on infection rates. This model was designed to reflect the primary groups and transmission modes driving HIV transmission in Asia, which include sex workers, injecting drug users as well as men who have sex with men.

Myanmar has seen declines in death rates, new infection rates and the number of people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the report.

It is estimated that there are about 200,000 people in the country living with HIV/AIDS.

The infection rate among female sex workers is estimated at 7.1 per cent.

The infection rate among men who have sex with men is estimated at 8.9 per cent, while the rate among injecting drug users is estimated at 18 per cent.

The report estimates that there are about 20 new infections a day in Mynamar with six of these being women infected via unprotected sexual intercourse with their husbands.

About half of all people living with HIV in Myanmar about 50 per cent are receiving anti-retroviral treatments, the report said.

These treatments save lives and also reduce the chance that the person can transmit the virus as their so-called "viral load" falls after taking the medications.

People living with HIV face extreme prejudice and even physical abuse in Myanmar, the report says.

They have been, however, the most active among those trying to raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent infection, the report says.

They are urging civil society groups and the government to participate in their efforts to curb the spread of the disease, assist those living with it and implement educational campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.