MYANMAR: HIV awareness key among injecting drug users-Irin News

YANGON, 9 March 2009 (IRIN) – Maung Maung (not his real name) never knew he could contract HIV by sharing needles.

“I was too late,” the 37-year-old, who routinely exchanged needles with drug addicts over a 10-year period, told IRIN/PlusNews.

“When I took a blood test six months ago, I was told I was HIV-positive,” he said. Maung Maung has yet to receive ART treatment, despite being registered at the Waibagi Hospital, one of the few in Myanmar with the capacity to treat people infected with HIV.

“Whenever I think of my plight, I blame myself for not knowing more at the time,” Maung Maung said.

There are thousands of injecting drug users like Maung Maung, with little or no awareness of the risks.

Government figures suggest there are around 70,000 registered drug users in the country, with the vast majority of newly registered addicts using heroin.

But with most addicts reluctant to register with the authorities (a requirement when seeking treatment) out of fear of persecution, numbers are likely to be much higher. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates up to 300,000 people may be addicts. continue

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