A report revealing the high rates of HIV among gay men in Burma was published by Voice of America this week.
HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Burma is one of the highest in the Southeast Asia region, currently at around 11%.
The video report visits Burma’s largest supernatural spirit festival Nat Festival, which is popular with gay men and interviews gay spirit medium Ko Chit Tae. ‘HIV affects the gay community,’ he said. ‘It’s highly likely with homosexuals having frequent unprotected sexual intercourse with each other.’
Although national programs are helping to stem the spread of HIV, those who already have the virus get little help. International group Doctors without Borders provides 70% of the antiretroviral drugs in the country.
‘There is a treatment gap of 80,000 people approximately in need of life-saving treatment,’ said Doctors Without Borders’ Burma director Duncan Bell about the shortfall in funding for antiretroviral therapy.
Benjamin Law, who spent time with gay men with HIV in Burma while reaching his book Gaysia, told Gay Star News the root cause is the country’s poverty.
‘You have a government with one of the world’s lowest (if not the lowest) per capita spending on health for its citizens,’ said Law.
‘There’s also a desperate lack of sex education stemming from entrenched poverty (it’s estimated that Burma’s GDP per capita is between North Korea’s and Afghanistan’s). Then you’ve got young men relying on sex work to survive, especially in the cities.’
Watch the Voice of America report here: