Health workers in Myanmar are confident that efforts to narrow the country’s huge gap between access to, and need for, life-saving medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are back on track after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria invited the country to apply for additional funding.
“I would not have dreamt that this was possible last November,” said Peter Paul de Groote, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Myanmar, referring to the Global Fund’s cancellation of funding that health workers in Myanmar were relying on to expand access to antiretrovirals (ARVs).
Instead, MSF has been forced to turn away people in need of ARVs. “It’s a trauma for patients sent away and for our staff,” said de Groote.
The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates 18,000 people die of AIDs-related illnesses annually in Myanmar.
The agency’s coordinator for Myanmar, Eamonn Murphy, said new funds will allow the country to close a “treatment gap” where only one-third of the 120,000 people nationwide who need ARVs receive them.
Health officials drafted a “concept note” outlining how additional funding might be used, which will be reviewed by the Global Fund’s board, Murphy said. It offers two scenarios: the first ensures 85 percent of those who need ARVs receive them by 2015; while with the second, 76 percent of people would be covered, he said.
Based on feedback from the board, the government will choose a strategy for the proposal to be submitted early next year.