HIV/AIDS presents a real and present danger to millions of people living behind the closed doors of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Ruled by a military junta, until recently its citizens couldn’t even access basic information about the epidemic that’s sweeping the tiny, cloistered nation – and spilling over the borders into neighbouring countries along heroin trade routes. The UN-AIDS Country Co-ordinator in Myanmar, Brian Williams, says the AIDS epidemic is among the three biggest in Asia, along with neighbours Cambodia and Thailand, with sex workers and injecting drug users causing most transmissions. Statistics show shanty towns that spring up around Jade mines in the mountains of Myanmar are a hothouse for HIV, with high levels of IV drug use and promiscuity. With low employment rates, young people flock to these areas, so HIV may effectively carve a swath through the younger generation. Australia is one of six donor countries that continue to support UNAIDS, in a program targetting AIDS, TB and malaria in Myanmar.
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