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Cablegate: New Health Minister Progressive On Vct

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS RANGOON 000261

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE PASS AID/ANE, HHS FOR OGHA - STEIGER
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND IO/IHA
PHNOM PENH FOR AID - CAROL JENKINS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI ECON BM NGO
SUBJECT: NEW HEALTH MINISTER PROGRESSIVE ON VCT

1. (U) This is an action request for EAP/BCLTV. Please see
paragraph 7.

2. (SBU) Summary: The COM had a productive courtesy call on
the new Health Minister, pressing him on expanded VCT,
discussing an expected private health care law, and
presenting the case for visits to Burma by Orbis and
Operation Smile. The Minister said he looked forward to
future U.S.-Burma dialogue on VCT and humanitarian aid
issues, and that he would try to be available when the USG
delegation led by OES DAS Chow comes to Rangoon at the end of
March. End summary.

Voluntary Counseling and Testing Progress Possible

3. (SBU) The Chief of Mission paid a courtesy call on the new
Health Minister, Dr. Kyaw Myint, on February 26. From the
outset of the meeting, it was clear the new Minister has
taken a far more positive position on INGO participation in
voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), than had his
predecessor. Responding to the COM's questions, the Minister
said that the GOB would be willing to allow INGOs to provide
VCT services for at-risk communities (including TB patients).
However, he agreed that, the devil was in the details. He
would not elaborate on what the outstanding details were, or
how the GOB currently stood on them, but he did urge the U.S.
government to send out someone to work out these details with
the Ministry. Along these lines, the Minister was curious
why the CDC visit had been canceled, and said he looked
forward to its return.

Private Healthcare Soon to Be Legalized

4. (SBU) When asked about the status of a long-awaited law
legalizing private health care, the Minister turned to his
deputies to respond. They were evasive, saying only that the
draft was in with the Attorney General's office, and that
when it emerged it should be ready for promulgation. The law
will allow provision of health care by properly licensed and
supervised private clinics and pharmacies (currently private
clinics operate without official sanction). The Minister's
staff was vague on the matter of foreign participation in the
new private health care sector. However, the message seemed
clear that foreigners would not be allowed to participate
unless they were physicians licensed by the Myanmar Medical
Association.

Orbis, Operation Smile Welcome

5. (U) The COM queried the Minister on the possibility of
U.S.-based non-profits Orbis and Operation Smile coming to
Burma. The Minister replied that Orbis was "an old friend"
and could come anytime (Note: Orbis was in Burma most
recently in 2000). He mentioned that there was already
significant international assistance for cleft palate and
facial reconstructive surgery, and that local doctors were
also performing these operations for the poorest children.
However, he said that Operation Smile should come to discuss
with the MOH a possible visit to Burma. The COM gave the
Minister some background information on Operation Smile and
Orbis and told him we would advise these organizations of his
response.

Looking for Help

6. (SBU) The Minister volunteered the fact that Burma and the
GOB desperately need additional international assistance and
funding to effectively tackle the country's health-related
priorities. He said the small amount of such funding and
advice to date have been major obstacles to success. The
Minister urged the United States to become more engaged, by
exchanging proposals for areas of possible cooperation. The
COM responded that we expected a visit at the end of March of
a USG delegation, led by OES DAS Chow, looking to discuss
matters of health and humanitarian assistance. The Minister
responded that he would try to find time on his schedule to
meet with the delegation.

Action Request

7. (SBU) For EAP/BCLTV: Please contact Operation Smile and
Orbis to relay the Minister's message. Operation Smile, if
interested in coming to Burma, should consider sending a
representative to lay the groundwork with key MOH officials.
Martinez

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