Mysterious Youth Voices, Myanmar


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Photos by young people who are members of key groups affected by HIV, including sex workers, MSMs (men who have sex with men), transgender young people and gay young people of both sexes. HIV is a taboo subject in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and this project will both help reduce stigma, and begin the slow process of normalising discussion of HIV risks and treatment to break down the barriers that put so many young people at unnecessary risk.

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Mysterious Youth Voices, Myanmar

  1. 1. Mysterious Youth Voices Myanmar Photos by members of key groups affected by HIV “Prevention” By AD © AD 2014 / International HIV/AIDS Alliance / PhotoVoice
  2. 2. You can be healthy, wealthy and happy – and living with HIV. MND
  3. 3. Morning Wash This transgender lady runs a beauty parlour in Yangon. She lives with her partner and has been with him for 5 years. Arkar
  4. 4. These clients of her beauty parlour are getting dressed up for their graduation. Arkar
  5. 5. Although she is not HIV Positive, some people may assume she is because they think transgender people are always spreading the disease. No one can tell who is HIV Positive and who is not – they should not assume. Arkar
  6. 6. People have so many misconceptions about key groups. I wish I could hand them some glasses that could help them to see clearly. Htin Ka Ra (Economics)
  7. 7. Young people always regret mistakes, it’s like a shadow. Don’t regret all the time, you are a young person, so move on. Baby C
  8. 8. Police can use carrying condoms as an excuse to arrest or harass sex workers, so sex workers hide condoms in their bra. Despite harassment sex workers take responsibility by carrying condoms to avoid pregnancy and STIs. MND
  9. 9. When clients refuse to use condoms, sex workers will try and convince them. Sometimes secretly they put condoms on a client with their mouth. MND
  10. 10. This is a male sex worker, hanging out in a place where MSMs [men who have sex with men] gather at night to meet. He became HIV Positive 5 years ago but has not yet started treatment. At the moment he is healthy but he has not been retested for over a year. He is Christian and prefers to trust in God to protect him. He is worried that if he goes to access services his clients may find out and they will no longer go to him. He relies on sex work for money for his future. He is careful to always carry condoms so as not to spread the disease, but if his status became public he worries that he might lose his livelihood. Arkar
  11. 11. Some people who become ill and think they may have become HIV Positive do not go to doctors, but instead visit traditional healers, because they are afraid of stigma if their status becomes known. They need proper treatment if they are living with HIV, or they will waste their life. A Lay
  12. 12. Life-saving ART The pills at the front are daily medicines, such as vitamins, which are easy to get hold of. The focus is on the HIV medication in the distance, which is out of reach for too many. AD
  13. 13. The life of someone living with HIV is important – don’t let it burn away and be taken by the wind because of lack of treatment. AD
  14. 14. I am a transgender woman, my family and society always discriminate against me, but I don’t allow it to stop me continuing with my life and socialising with friends. Char Coal
  15. 15. The volunteer is a sex worker. She works late nights and provides peer support in the day, so after lunch she is able to rest at the drop-in centre. Char Coal
  16. 16. This map in our outreach centre shows known MSM hotspots where we go to hand out condoms and speak about prevention of HIV. Char Coal
  17. 17. Everyone is going around and we don’t know who and how many people are HIV positive. You could be one of them. Mone Mann Htet
  18. 18. My brother owns a massage parlour and clients are often abusive. Sometimes they use the sex worker’s services but then run away without paying, and at other times they may request oral sex and if the sex worker refuses they get angry and use violence. Sex workers are vulnerable to this kind of abuse because they will not go to the police. Naing Naing
  19. 19. Before going to the pagoda festival with friends she is applying makeup in a bar while drinking. She may be vulnerable to being targeted by homophobic men while in public like this. Naing Naing
  20. 20. After dark MSMs gather to meet in selected areas where they will not be so visible and subject to insults and aggression. They have to be careful of police, because after dark anyone can be arrested on suspicion of breaking the law, and the police will target MSMs and transgender people and sometimes threaten them with section 377 of the penal code, which says that sexual acts ‘against the natural order’ are illegal. Here the sexuality of some of the men is very hidden, which will help them avoid police harassment, but they have condoms with them in plain sight in the basket of the bike, and are clearly happy with who they are. Zayar
  21. 21. If you store condoms like this they can become weakened by the sun. Keep yours in a cool dark place and ensure when you buy them they have been stored properly. A Lay
  22. 22. Prevention vs Treatment If you use condoms to protect yourself you can avoid a lifetime of treatment. MND
  23. 23. Sex workers are not allowed to hang their clothes and underwear outside the massage parlour to dry. This is because the owner is worried about people seeing that many girls are staying there. The clothes are not washed and dried properly and can irritate the girls’ skin. MND
  24. 24. Brooms are usually kept out of sight except when they are wanted to serve their purpose. This photo shows how they can be beautiful if they are given the chance to be on show. It is the same for sex workers who people use when it suits them, but prefer to be hidden from public sight. Htin Ka Ra (Economics)
  25. 25. Don’t thoughtlessly break someone’s home. This may look creepy because it is different from your home, but same sex couples, like spiders, take lots of time to build their home. Sue Chol
  26. 26. Pagoda, Yangon Char Coal
  27. 27. Left Right Wrong He doesn't know how to use the slippers so they are useless to him. As with all things there is a correct way to use condoms – if you do not follow the rules to store them, use them correctly they will not do their important job of protecting you. A Lay
  28. 28. The life of an MSM is free and full of joy like others they need understanding and respect. Char Coal
  29. 29. The Independence Monument in Yangon represents freedom, but lesbian couples can’t get married. So they’re holding the rings and asking for marriage – we don’t have the freedom or equal rights. Sue Chol
  30. 30. Without access to ART treatment the life of an HIV Positive person can deteriorate like this leaf. AD
  31. 31. Living on the Wire People living with HIV can feel like they are living apart from the rest of society. Young people are often rejected by their families and have nowhere to live, but even those that do have a home can feel isolated. Htin Ka Ra (Economics)