HAARP: Myanmar Achievements 2009

In 2008, HAARP HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Program, funded by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), launched projects in China and five countries of South East Asia. This regional program was aimed at reducing the transmission of HIV amongst male and female injecting drug users. The Country Flexible Program (CFP) was contracted to local stakeholders as deemed appropriate.

One of the six country programs, CFP Myanmar has been working in close collaboration with Central Committee of the Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), the main policy body steered by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The gradual but effective advocacy enhanced expansion of a further five project sites in the second half of 2009. The total of ten sites reached over 3800 injecting drug users, contributing to fifteen per cent of national coverage. Main sites provided a range of services while the NSP needle and syringe program operates in satellite sites.

Outreach to injecting drug users is necessary as Myanmar drug laws prevent them from seeking help at government agencies. The services provided to injecting drug users through fixed site locations and field outreach involved the distribution of preventive materials, diagnosis, referral for medical diseases and drug treatment, as well as nutritional and psychosocial support. Most clients reached to date have been male injecting drug users. CFP, in collaboration with Marie Stopes International, an organization working in the area of reproductive health, has initiated female specific corners and integrated effective family planning services to female injecting drug users, sexual partners and spouses of male drug users. Over 500 female clients visited the sites.

When a drug user is arrested, the failure to register as a user of illegal drugs results in a lengthy trial and imprisonment for a minimum of three years. Hence, CFP facilitated the National Legal Review and sought to influence punitive approaches. A set of recommendations generated from the review emphasized the need for clients to have access to drug treatment and rehabilitation. It also advocated for the decriminalization of drug misuse.

In 2009, CFP Myanmar made its contribution to increased national coverage of beneficiaries and a rapid roll out of harm reduction sites. It also piloted gender sensitive services. The AusAID annual review on HAARP Myanmar in March 2010 applauded its achievements and advised CFP to further its involvement with the national AIDS program and to increase collaboration with local stakeholders. AusAID also decided to launch vocational facilities at Myanmar sites by the year 2011.

Project Implementation in the Field