On Wednesday, newly freed pro-democracy Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to more than 70 patients at a "safe house" for people living with HIV/AIDS in Rangoon, the Irrawaddy reports. The house is one of three operated by young members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in South and North Dagon Townships where patients are provided with free food and medicine.
Last Saturday, Suu Kyi was released after seven years of house arrest.
In her remarks to a crowd of nearly 500, Suu Kyi told those with HIV/AIDS to keep a "strong spirit" and called for increased financial support to combat the virus, Democratic Voice of Burma reports.
Mizzima reports that more than 360,000 residents of Burma are living with HIV/AIDS. According to UN Aids statistics, the junta’s Health Ministry spends about US$100,000 annually on its Aids eradication campaign.
"What we can do now is try to get as much medicine as we can for the patients here,"Suu Kyi stressed, adding, "We need a lot of money to get antiretroviral drugs... We need money for food. We need money for more housing."
"People have value as human beings whatever happens, or whatever disease happens to you," Suu Kyi said. “Everybody has their own values so you don’t need to be discouraged. You must uplift your spirits and strength. I say these words not only to the patients but also to everybody … high and low status depends only on each person. Everybody needs to know that they can consider themselves a dignified person.”