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The Union extends vital health programmes in Myanmar through new Global Fund grant

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The Union in Myanmar, in collaboration with national health partners, has been awarded grants from the Global Fund for 2024-2026, signalling a renewed commitment to extending vital health initiatives in the country.

Among ongoing efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB), drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), and HIV/AIDS, The Union Office in Myanmar, in collaboration with various national health partners, has been awarded grants from the Global Fund until 2026. This achievement marks a continuation of the impactful work and signifies a renewed commitment to extending and enhancing crucial health initiatives across multiple regions in Myanmar.

Highlights from the programmes to date:

Programme to Increase the Catchment of Tuberculosis Presumptives (PICTS): The PICTS operates in 13 high-burden areas within the regions of Mandalay, Sagaing and Shan State. Implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other key stakeholders. PICTS focuses on finding people with TB and supporting them through their treatment journey, reaching approximately 3 million individuals. Key achievements include delivering over 4,800 community health talks, referring to nearly 18,650 people for TB testing, and diagnosing of over 2,693 people for treatment.

Community-Based DR-TB Care Programme: This programme operates across 27 townships (administrative designations) in Myanmar, supporting the national scale-up plan for DR-TB. Through community mobilisation activities, psychosocial support, and clinical case management, the programme has provided assistance to over 1,100 people with DR-TB, referred over 3,000 household contacts for screening, and facilitated daily directly observed treatment for over 700 individuals.

Integrated HIV Care (IHC) Programme: Covering multiple regions, including Mandalay, Magway, Sagaing, Yangon, and Shan State, the IHC programme focuses on clinical management, TB-HIV collaborative activities, human resource assistance, and infrastructure support. In 2023, notable achievements include 94% of people on the programme recording suppressed viral load and successfully screening 95% of those newly initiated on ART for TB.

Integration of HIV Prevention Activities (IHP): Operating in various regions, the IHP programme emphasises prevention measures, including health education, condom distribution, and follow-up testing and counselling services. In 2023, significant progress has been made in increasing the percentage of people tested and informed of their results to 96%, as well as distributing 391,314 free condoms to vulnerable populations.

Laboratory Support: The Union’s Lab Team collaborates with public health laboratories and hospitals to provide quality testing services for people living with HIV, ensuring the availability of essential laboratory supplies, offering testing services, providing necessary equipment and human resources, and conducting training sessions.

Despite notable achievements, The Union Office in Myanmar faces multifaceted challenges such as security concerns affecting community awareness sessions and group health education gatherings, as well as issues relating to population migration and contact tracing efforts. Additionally, financial constraints and transportation barriers limit access to Urban Clinics for presumptive cases.  Moreover, maintaining community engagement in remote areas is challenging, exacerbated by rising inflation and retention issue of community members.

Kelland Stevenson, Country Director, The Union Myanmar Office, said: “To address these challenges effectively, we remain committed to fostering community participation and enhancing collaboration with stakeholders, including administration and health departments. This involves implementing heightened security measures and encouraging contract tracing efforts led by community members. Furthermore, the establishment of a robust feedback mechanism and the promotion of community support services aim to enhance community engagement. Additionally, we motivate local community members by offering networking opportunities and comprehensive refresher training sessions.

“Through innovative programmes, community engagement initiatives, and strategic partnerships, we are dedicated to improving public health outcomes and building a healthier future for all in Myanmar.”