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For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights Speaks Out Against the Wrongful Eviction of HIV/AIDS Patients in Rangoon

Cambridge, Mass - 11/23/2010

(Cambridge, MA) Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today denounced the eviction of residents and staff of the South Dagon Township home, a safe house for HIV/AIDs patients. The shelter, which is run by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and was recently visited by democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, houses 80 HIV/AIDs patients and provides counseling and care for other related conditions including TB and drug-resistant TB. Two days after the recently freed Suu Kyi visited the site, the Burmese authorities notified the center that the residents and staff would have to leave and return home within the week.

"The Burmese government's decision to close this safe house threatens the lives of these patients and is a potential death sentence for many," said Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights. "The consistent regimen of medications and care that the South Dagon Township home has been providing is vital to their health, and any interruptions in therapy compromise these treatments and can increase the patients' chance of developing dangerous drug resistances. As members of the medical and human rights communities, we cannot stand for this type of political game playing when people's lives are at stake."

For years, patients from all over Burma have travelled to Rangoon to receive medical care from the South Dagon Township home, which in recent years has been operated by NLD social activist Phyu Phyu Thin. Staff and residents must evacuate the safe house by November 25.

UPDATE:

Following international outcry regarding the wrongful eviction of HIV/AIDS patients, Burmese officials have reversed their eviction order of the South Dagon Township home. NLD social activist Phyu Phyu Thin, who runs the South Dagon Township home, told The Irrawaddy that authorities personally apologized for denying the permit. "In my point of view, the authorities retreated because media inside and outside of Burma, as well as other organizations, focused on the issue," said Phyu Phyu Thin to The Irrawaddy.

"Physicians for Human Rights expressed justifiable outrage at this wrongful eviction and we are pleased to hear that Burmese officials have reversed this decision which could have been devastating for so many," said Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights. "The decision to extend the permit came only four days after PHR, along with other international organizations, decried the eviction. As members of the medical and human rights communities, we have all demonstrated that there is strength in numbers and we can affect change."

The South Dagon Township home houses 80 guests who are living with HIV/AIDS, including young children.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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