September 19, 2018
The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: One Year On
In recent years, Myanmar has experienced one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in south-east Asia. DotW has been operating in the country since 1994, where over 50,000 HIV positive people do not have access to the antiretroviral drugs they need to survive. Our main projects in Myanmar deliver comprehensive HIV/AIDs prevention and care to drug users in Kachin State and sex workers in the Yangon area.
In the State of Kachin, access to preventive treatment services is difficult due to armed conflict and the discrimination that drug users face. We manage 4 health clinics that provide HIV screenings, preventative treatment and educational workshops. We have also been working with sex workers in Yangon since 2004. Only 28% of sex workers in Myanmar receive screening for the disease, so we run outreach clinics to prevent, detect and treat HIV among this population. Annually, more than 1,000 sex workers receive consultations in our clinics, and many of those receive antiretroviral treatment.
The AIDS epidemic in Tanzania currently affects 6.5% of the population. The country has recently become an entry point for illegal drugs, such as heroin, from Central Asia. Due to this development, the accessibility and consumption of drugs in the country has increased, which in turn has caused a spike in the transmission of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis through infected syringes.
There are an estimated 300,000 drug users in the country, many of whom reside in the capital Dar Es Salaam. Around 67% users suffer from AIDS, with 1 in 3 testing positive for HIV or hepatitis. We support 4 reception centers in Dar Es Salaam that receive up to 200 people a day. The centers provide screenings, clean needles, psychosocial support and referrals to health facilities. We also operate out of mobile units to reach more isolated users.
One of our team members, Ramson, used to be a drug user himself. Born in Dar Es Salaam, in the poor neighbourhood of Temeke, Ramson was 29 when he first tried heroin. “It was a mixture of tobacco and brown heroin from Pakistan,” he describes. “After that I smoked regularly for a decade. In 1999, I started to inject.” For years, Ramson injected heroin several times a day, often sharing his needle with other users. “In 2000, I contracted Tuberculosis twice. After that I agreed to get tested for AIDS.” Ramson found out he was HIV positive in 2005, and with the support of our centers has since been on antiretroviral medications.
Russia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is growing at an alarming rate, and the sex worker community has been particularly impacted. The social stigma attached to this community often prevents sex workers from accessing healthcare of any sort, and increases their vulnerability to diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Our teams launched a project in Moscow in 2015 to improve access to healthcare for these marginalized communities. We conduct nightly outreach programs to meet with sex workers, raise awareness of the risks of disease transmission, and provide preventative supplies such as condoms. Doctors of the World also takes part in developing health policies to advocate for and improve sex workers access to medical care.