People carry water in jerrycans on their heads from a nearby river.

Infectious Diseases and Human Rights in Myanmar


In 2007, researchers from the Human Rights Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Public Health and Human Rights released a report documenting how decades of repressive rule, civil war and poor governance in Myanmar have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases there. It was also written to see if it was possible to deliver international aid to combat infectious diseases in Burma in a manner that would be transparent and accountable, reach those most in need, and promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

Based on interviews with health professionals inside Burma and along the borders with China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India, researchers found that the country’s inability to respond to infectious diseases is due to the policies and priorities adopted by a succession of military regimes that have been in power since the early 1960s. These policies have included placing extreme travel restrictions on international humanitarian organizations, hindering organizations’ access to areas where infectious diseases are rampant and medical care is scarce. Further, researchers found that the widespread distribution of counterfeit antimalarial drugs, coupled with the rise of drug-resistant malaria and tuberculosis, pose a major health threat to the Burmese people.

Left: Cho Cho Win (not her real name) is seen in a safe house for women with HIV in Thailand, having fled Burma due to abuse at home. Her family abandoned her, but she was able to find support from a Burmese aid organisation in Thailand which provided shelter. Seven months after this photograph was taken, she died of AIDS-related complications. Image by Nic Dunlop.

A woman sleeps under a mosquito net.


Logo of Human Rights Center UC Berkeley School of Law


Image by Ajay Karpur via Unsplash

August 4, 2007

Human rights abuses threaten health in Burma

HRC in the News — The Lancet: Human rights abuses threaten health in Burma, writing about the report “The Gathering Storm: Infectious Diseases and Human Rights in Burma.”

Cho Cho Win, a Burmese migrant worker suffering from AIDS, shortly before her death in a clinic on the Thailand border. (Nic Dunlop photo)

June 28, 2007

Burma junta faulted for rampant diseases

HRC in the News — Berkeley News: Burma junta faulted for rampant diseases, writing about the report “The Gathering Storm: Infectious Diseases and Human Rights in Burma.”