Myanmar Launches HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Services in Major Milestone for National HIV Prevention
On July 31st, 2020, HIV healthcare providers and other key stakeholders gathered at an event in Yangon to inaugurate Myanmar’s first HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) clinics. This marks a major milestone for Myanmar’s strategic response to HIV, and will contribute to the scaling up of HIV prevention efforts.
PrEP is an antiretroviral drug taken by HIV-negative people to protect themselves against HIV infection. If used consistently and correctly, PrEP can virtually eliminate the risk of HIV infection.
The PrEP prevention program is already available for men who have sex with men and transgender persons in Myanmar, and will be available soon for people who inject drugs. The program is a collaborative effort between the National AIDS Program (NAP), the Global Fund, and the USAID HIV/AIDS Flagship (UHF) Project for which Community Partners International (CPI) provides project implementation support.
The event opened with remarks from Dr. Htun Nyunt Oo, Program Manager, National AIDS Program. He observed that, “PrEP is an additional method to existing preventive measures which will fulfill our mission to become an AIDS-free society by 2030. We hope that everyone will help us to reach this goal.”
Dr. Htun Nyunt Oo then inaugurated the clinic. This was followed by a speech by Mr. Oussama Tawil, UNAIDS Country Director, via online video link. Mr. Oussama Tawil commended the cooperation between all parties involved which made the program possible.
The participants visited the NAP’s Latha PrEP clinic, followed by a visit to UHF Project partners Population Services International (PSI) and Medical Action Myanmar (MAM)’s new PrEP clinics. During their visits, participant met with some of the very first PrEP clients in Myanmar.
“I am really proud of joining this program,” said one of the first PrEP clients present at the event. “PrEP is very effective to prevent HIV when taken properly.”
Taking PrEP daily gives me peace of mind, and I am much less anxious about HIV,” added a newly-enrolled PrEP client.
(From left to right) Dr. Khin Zarli Aye (Senior HIV Technical Director, PSI), Dr. Yin Min Thaung (UHF Chief of Party, CPI), Melody Lalmuanpuii (Program Manager, UNAIDS), Michael Chommie (Country Representative, PSI), Dr. Htun Nyunt Oo (Program Manager, NAP), Dr. San Hone (Director, HMIS, DOPH), Dr. Pyae Sone (AD, NAP) (CPI)
An overview of PrEP in Myanmar
A number of large trials undertaken across the world have continued to prove PrEP’s effectiveness. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends PrEP as part of a suite of tools to prevent new HIV infections, including the use of condoms, sterile drug-use equipment, and other HIV prevention services and supports.
The USAID HIV/AIDS Flagship (UHF) Project, implemented by CPI, supports national efforts to scale-up HIV prevention, testing, and treatment for people at high risk in Myanmar, focusing on five high burden areas: Kachin State, Shan State, Sagaing State, Yangon Region, and Mandalay Region. From the onset, the UHF Project has been supporting the National AIDS Program, working closely with other relevant stakeholders, to make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) a reality in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS, 2016-2020, identifies PrEP as a priority intervention for reducing new HIV infections and recommends developing model pre-exposure prophylaxis PrEP programs for populations with substantial risk for HIV infection. Developing the PrEP program aligns with the World Health Organization recommendations, to use PrEP as an essential tool for controlling HIV epidemic worldwide.
In November 2017, the UHF Project and other stakeholders advocated to the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sport’s senior officials to consider implementing a PrEP program, in line with their strategic planning. Following several meetings the NAP drafted the national plan for the PrEP demonstration project with input from the UHF Project by July 2019. Following ethical clearance by the Institutional Review Board in June 2020, the program was officially launched. Since July 31st, 2020, PrEP is available in Myanmar.
The USAID HIV/AIDS Flagship (UHF) Project is funded by USAID under PEPFAR through UNAIDS Myanmar. Community Partners International (CPI) is providing project implementation support and management to five partner organizations: Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN), Medical Action Myanmar (MAM), Metta Development Foundation (Metta) and Population Services International (PSI).