PHUKET TOWN: Recent reports about the ignorance of people in Burma when it comes to HIV and AIDS is reflected in local figures, says the Phuket Provincial Health Office. Dr Boonriang Chuchaisangrat, chief of the Health Office, said that the number of Burmese in Phuket suffering from AIDS is rising, mostly because the Burmese have little knowledge about the deadly disease. This, in turn, is costing the Thai government huge amounts for treatment of infected Burmese workers dumped by their Thai employers. “We need to teach them about AIDS and how dangerous it is not to use condoms. The problem is that we don’t have any publicity materials in Burmese, so it is hard for them to learn about the disease,” said Dr Boonriang. He said that infections are mostly through heterosexual sex, with transmission being mainly through prostitutes. He added, however, that there have also been many cases of women infected by their husbands. Employers of Burmese diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS give them little or no help, he added. Some put infected employees in pick-up trucks and drop them in the middle of nowhere. They then call one of the rescue foundations to pick up the victims and take them to the hospital. In this way, the employers ensure that they do not have to pay for treatment. Instead, the state picks up the tab. “In some case, the cost of drugs to keep one patient alive is hundreds of thousands of baht. Each year, Wachira Phuket Hospital spends between 5 and 8 million baht on Burmese patients with AIDS,” Dr Boonriang said.
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