“This one-year pilot programme is a first step in our efforts to ease the suffering of people in Myanmar living with the disease and help to slow its spread,” World Food Programme (WFP) country director Bhim Udas said. “The food gives these poor families a better chance for survival, and serves to prevent the practices that trigger infection, like migrant or sex work.”WFP will give a monthly ration of 65 kilograms of rice for nine months to some 400 families in central Myanmar, a poor part of the country whose central trucking routes have abetted the spread of HIV/AIDS. The food is to be distributed as part of a package of “home-based” community care administered by the Myanmar Nurses Association.Fifteen per cent of those receiving the rice are tuberculosis patients for whom the food serves as an incentive to continue long-term follow-up treatment. Mr. Udas said the programme is set to expand to Shan state in the east later this year. Myanmar is the second Asian country to benefit from this type of WFP project. A programme for 4,000 households was launched in Cambodia last year.UN agencies estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 people in Myanmar have HIV and that 2.2 per cent of pregnant women are infected, more than twice the benchmark of 1 per cent used by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) to identify a generalized epidemic.This puts Myanmar – along with Cambodia and Thailand – at the top of the regional list. One reason for the spike is Myanmar’s geographic location: sharing borders with countries with high HIV levels makes it vulnerable to cross-border infection from migrant workers.

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