This documentary shows the experiences of outreach workers and peers in providing critical connections to prevention, treatment, and care to people who use drugs and sex workers in remote Sagaing villages in North West Myanmar. Produced by Drugreporter’s video advocacy alumni, Ko Si Thu Aung.
The film is directed by Ko Si Thu Aung, who shot the film in the extremely remote Township Mawlaik. Situated at the Chindwin River near the Indian border, the township is known for its spectacular views, running through deep jungles and lofty mountains, as well as for its lumber mills, and close proximity to coal and gold mines, and hydro power plants.
Myanmar is confronted with a unique HIV, HCV, TB, and drug use syndemic in most remote, hard-to-reach mining, border, and conflict areas. Drug use in Myanmar is closely related to subsistence day labor (in rural areas) and drug-using migrant workers in logging, gold, ruby, and jade mines. Most clients of the Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN), people who use or inject drugs, and sex workers are in the lowest economic strata, experiencing endemic poverty coupled with the socio-economic consequences of drug use. The intense markers of marginalisation are key drivers of the challenge of reaching these people, complicating prevention, impacting health seeking behaviour, obstructing enrolment into treatment and care, as well as compliance and adherence, compounded by contextual barriers such as proximity to clinics and travel costs, among others.
This documentary shows the work and challenges of AHRN outreach workers and community members of the existing Best Shelter network of peers in remote villages. They support local communities in organising village health committees, provide community advocacy for reducing myths on Harm Reduction, provide health education and training of peers, develop and distribute IECs, condoms, and other preventive materials; organise needle patrol in remote communities, and support drug users and sex workers in STI and HIV testing and referral to the local health services, or easy access to treatment at the AHRN clinic. Outreach workers conduct basic TB symptom screening in conjunction with AHRN mobile medical teams, and Best Shelter peers provide highly cost-effective prevention, as well as 24/7, readily-available, free, clean NS, and play a critical role in the referral of clients to enhance reach and enrolment in MMT and HIV care.
The documentary is produced by the Asian Harm Reduction Network and Best Shelter, with kind financial and technical support by the Robert Carr civil society Networks Fund (RCNF), the International Drug Policy Consortium, and the Rights Reporter Foundation. Ko Si Thu Aung is the alumni of the video advocacy training that was held in Thailand in 2019 by the Rights Reporter Foundation, with the support of the IDPC and the RCNF.