Monday, July 8, 2013

© UNICEF Myanmar/2013/Myo Thame
Ms. Miriam prepares Tha-Nakh-Kha (a traditional skin enhancing sun block) for Mee Mee* during her home visit to a family in Monywa. Mee Mee*6, lost both parents due to HIV and is taken care of by her grandparents
By Sandar Linn
MONYWA, Myanmar, 8 July 2013: UNICEF Regional Ambassador for East Asia and Pacific Region and popular Hong Kong actor-singer Miriam Yeung visited Myanmar in the first week of July, promoting Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMCT) in Myanmar for UNICEF and partners. 
Ms. Yeung’s started her visit by meeting with orphan and vulnerable children and members at the UNICEF-supported People living with HIV (PLHIV) and AIDS, self-help network in Monywa, called Ta Naing Kha.

Two sisters, Swe Swe* 9 and Wai Wai* 7, greeted Miriam at the network and invited her to join the network meeting.
The self-help group’s meetings are held regularly to share information and provide psychosocial support among PLHIV and peer counselors. It also shares updated information by AIDS/STD team, and reporting and monthly visit plan development for the next month.
Ms. Yeung joined the network meeting and social gathering of the network members where she helped them in preparing Myanmar’s traditional snack moatlatsaung.
“I much appreciated their warm hospitality from people even when they are facing hardship in their lives,” said Miriam.
Miriam also visited both rural and urban health centres where she observed pregnant women receive general health education about pregnancy, delivery and new born care.

HIV and PMCT messages are included in these sessions and HIV testing is offered free of charge. Pregnant women seeking HIV testing also receives individual counselling.
The free blood test for pregnant women is part of the PMCT programme implemented by National AIDS Programme of the Ministry of Health, which was introduced in Myanmar in 2000 with the support from UNICEF.
UNICEF Myanmar’s PMCT programme support training to enhance the capacity of health staff including doctors, nurses, midwives and laboratory technicians working at various levels, and implement the standard PMCT service package according to the national guideline and standard operation procedure.
While in Monywa, Miriam also visited houses of some families who are living with HIV, listened to their stories, how they cope and the challenges they face, their hopes for the future.
“I noted close family bonding. When I asked children about their dreams, some said they wanted to continue education to support their families. Like us, they believe that education can help change their lives,” said Miriam.
“Well functioning PMCT services are now available in 253 out of 325 townships in Myanmar yet there are gaps that must be addressed. This includes drop out after testing and at the post test counseling stage. Loss in following up on Early Infant Diagnosis for the babies born to HIV infected mothers; and weak linkage for HIV infected mothers to receive ART for themselves and paediatric ART for their HIV positive babies,” said Dr. Ohnmar Aung, UNICEF Myanmar HIV specialist, who accompanied the Goodwill Ambassador’s visit, “These areas need strengthening for quality PMCT programme for getting to zero new infection and zero AIDS related death. We also need to take a closer look at orphan and vulnerable children in relation to HIV and AIDS, it is largely linked to PMCT,” she added.
Daw Aye Aye*, who was pleased and proud to receive the Goodwill Ambassador at her home, said, “She listened to our story, comforted and encouraged us. I never thought an international celebrity would visit my modest home.” Daw Aye Aye* takes care of two grandchildren who lost both parents to AIDS.
Miriam Yeung’s visit was filmed for a television documentary that will help raise funds for children affected by HIV and AIDS and to recruit new donors for the ‘Friends of UNICEF’ Monthly Pledge Programme in Hong Kong.
“I believe that education and advocacy to prevent and treat HIV is very important. Educating children HIV prevention is actually the first step to protect them from the infection. Also stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS is also an issue. Advocacy can help HIV affected to be accepted in their communities and allow them to live regular lives,” said Miriam Yeung.
The famous singer and actor has long supported UNICEF’s work. She was appointed as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Hong Kong in 2005, and then was appointed as UNICEF Regional Ambassador for the East Asia and Pacific Region in 2009.
Miriam is an active advocate for the rights of children, including access to quality education and issues related to HIV and AIDS. She also helps raise funds for UNICEF Hong Kong.

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