To mark World AIDS Day, we talk to Shin Thant, one of the very first clients to enroll in Myanmar's HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Program.
On July 31st, 2020, with support from the USAID HIV/AIDS Flgship (UHF) Project, Myanmar launched its first Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Program. PrEP is an HIV drug taken by HIV-negative people to protect them against HIV infection. If used consistently and correctly, PrEP virtually eliminates the risk of HIV infection. A number of large trials undertaken across the world have continued to prove PrEP’s effectiveness.
Within the three first months of the launch of the program, the UHF Project, for which Community Partners International (CPI) provides implementation support, enrolled more than 250 clients from key populations at higher risk of HIV infection. Shin Thant, one of the first PrEP clients, shares her perspectives.
Why did you decide to enroll on PrEP?
Shin Thant: I first met with Char Col, a PrEP counselor from PSI. She introduced me to PrEP and after discussing I decided to give it a try. My community is at higher risk of HIV, I now that I may get infected and would have to follow an antiretroviral treatment (ART). I decided to start taking PrEP to have better HIV prevention, I hope it will protect me. That being said, I know that it doesn’t protect against Hepatitis B and C and other sexual transmittable diseases.
Do you think PrEP will help Myanmar reduce HIV transmissions?
Shin Thant: Yes, I believe it can help against HIV transmission. Everybody can be infected by HIV. Thus I would like to advise everyone to be aware of the risks. For people at higher risk, they should enroll on PrEP to reduce HIV transmission rates.
What would you say to people who are considering starting PrEP?
Shin Thant: Prevention is better than cure. They are many ways to prevent HIV. If you are able to consistently take PrEP and you are at risk of HIV infection, you should take PrEP. It could prevent you from getting HIV.
How do you feel being among the very first people taking PrEP in Myanmar?
Shin Thant: I am really grateful that I can access PrEP for free. I feel lucky. In the transgender community, people fear to get HIV one day as if it is almost inevitable. For me, since I enrolled on a PrEP treatment, I say HIV can be avoided.
PrEP is currently available for key populations in Yangon at the following facilities:
National AIDS Program clinic: Yangon General Hospital (extended compound) Latha township, Yangon. Open Tuesday and Thursday from 9AM to 3PM
Medical Action Myanmar clinic: Tun (3), Corner of Hpa-an Street and Min Hla Street, (9) Quarter, near administration office, Sa Nay Ma Bus Stop, Hlaing Tharyar Township. Open Monday to Friday from 9AM to 5PM
Population Services International clinic: No-215 A, Setthmu 3rd Street, Myittarnyunt Ward, Tamwe Township, Yangon. Open Monday to Friday from 9AM to 5PM
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).