Seminar on Collaboration for HIV Response with Sex Workers in Myanmar

Press Release

NAY PYI TAW, 22 September 2015. The Seminar on Collaboration for HIV Response with Sex Workers in Myanmar took place in Nay Pyi Taw, on 21-22 September 2015. The Seminar was attended by over 100 participants, including representatives from the Ministry of Health/National AIDS Programme, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, sex worker networks, local, national and international non-governmental organizations, development partners and UN agencies (UNAIDS, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS). The two-day discussions provided a platform to discuss issues on sex work in Myanmar and approaches in the Asia-Pacific region.

Opening the Seminar, Dr Than Win, Deputy Director General, Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health, stated in his address that “new trends observed around sex work require innovative models of service and cost-effective strategies” such as mobile HIV care and treatment services, and phone and web-based interventions. Mr Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Country Director, stressed that “recent achievements should be reinforced, in full collaboration with sex workers through the creation of an enabling environment, in order to fast-track and sustain the HIV response”. In this regard, Dr Htun Nyunt Oo, Programme Manager, National AIDS Programme, Ministry of Heath, reminded that government priorities include to intensify advocacy efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination; mobilization and involvement of sex workers in policy making, planning and programming; and to strengthen peer education activities.

National and regional perspectives on sex work-related issues echoed these priorities. Ms Nadia Rasheed, Team Leader, HIV, Health & Development, Asia-Pacific – UNDP Bangkok, highlighted that “bringing together Government, UN Agencies, civil society, sex workers, and law enforcement partners, is crucial to effectively respond to violence against female, male and transgender sex workers”. Regional representatives from civil society (Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia), and the law enforcement sector (Vietnam), also shared experiences and best practices.

Participants worked together to discuss and formulate concrete recommendations and key priorities to foster a more positive environment for sex work and HIV in Myanmar, which will also serve to inform the development of the new National Strategic Plan on HIV (2016-2020).

Outcomes of the group discussions confirmed that punitive legal framework, policies and practices fuel stigma and discrimination, and create a culture of fear, keeping sex workers away from health services, and contribute to violence against sex workers. Recommendations highlighted the need to address these challenges through law reform and through awareness-raising of the general public, the law enforcement and the health sectors, on the reality of sex work and difficulties faced by sex workers.

The Seminar was organised by UNAIDS in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, National AIDS Programme. Financial support was provided by the 3MDG Fund.

Media contacts :
Mr. Eamonn Murphy, Country Director, UNAIDS Myanmar + 95(1) 504832, 503816