Report calls for legal reforms to drive forward HIV response in Myanmar

Sep 24, 2014

New report offers strong recommendations to improve the legal framework and create a more enabling environment for HIV responses

NAY PYI TAW, 24 September 2014-A national HIV legal review report,  launched in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw , calls for immediate and long-term legal reform and capacity building to ensure access to health and HIV prevention and treatment services for people living with HIV (PLHIV) and key affected populations.  The report, a collaboration between UNAIDS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Pyoe Pin (DFID supported community programme), provides evidence of widespread stigma and discrimination of PLHIV and key affected populations in employment, education and the provision of health care and other services and offers strong recommendations to improve the legal framework and create a more enabling environment for HIV responses.

"Meaningful progress cannot occur without collaboration and ensuring that the people most affected by the HIV epidemic are involved in the solution.  The diverse voices coming together today mark a significant step in bringing about legal reform," said Caitlin Reiger, UNDP Chief Technical Adviser (Rule of Law) at the report launch. She commended the active engagement between Government of Myanmar officials, UNAIDS and UNDP,, and members of key affected populations, including female sex workers, people who inject drugs, transgender individuals and men who have sex with men.

Amidst on-going social and economic transitions in Myanmar, the report will contribute to the Government of Myanmar's efforts to meet its international commitments, work toward its vision of Universal Health Coverage by 2030 and strengthen implementation of the Myanmar National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS 2011 - 2016.

The report found that the majority of laws affecting the rights of PLHIV and key populations in Myanmar are outdated, including a law inherited from the British colonial era that maintains the transmission of HIV as a criminal offence, as well as sex between two males.  New laws and policies are needed to address a range of issues, with priorities in non-discrimination and confidentiality and ARV eligibility criteria.

The report also calls for reforms to existing laws and the development of new police instructions that will support public health approaches to HIV prevention.

"We have long dealt with police harassment on the street and fear of discrimination when accessing health care.  I am eager to see the changes that may come about from our discussion today," said a Ma Thuzar Win from Sex Worker network in Myanmar (SWiM) present at the report launch.

The report cites the need for targeted capacity building efforts in the justice sector and among health care workers in HIV and human rights to accompany the implementation of new laws, policies, and police instructions.

"Whether you are a sex worker or a transgender individual or HIV-positive or not, should not affect your right to access life-saving treatment and HIV prevention," said Eamonn Murphy, Country Director for UNAIDS Myanmar.  "Reforms are needed to drive forward the agenda to ensure an enabling environment that will eliminate injustices and rights violations and protect people living with HIV and key affected populations from stigma and discrimination."

The report was launched at a two-day meeting with representatives from different sectors from government, representatives of people living with HIV and key affected population networks, NGOs and UN agencies.  Government sectors included Ministry of Home Affairs; Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; Ministry of Science and Technology; Ministry of Health; and the Attorney General's Office.

Contact information

Eamonn Murphy
Country Director, UNAIDS
Phone: + 95(1) 504832, 503816
E-mail: MurphyE@UNAIDS.org

Shobhna Decloitre
UNDP Communications Specialist
Phone: + 95 (1) 09250345158
Email: Shobhna.decloitre@undp.org

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