AIDS infection rate drop in Cambodia

Wednesday, 5th September 2007

By Rory Byrne, Voice of America
Phnom Penh

many small, poor countries in Asia and Africa, Cambodia faces a
challenge from HIV – the virus that causes AIDS. By all measures,
Cambodia should be devastated by AIDS. Brothels are commonplace,
illegal drugs are widely available and Cambodia’s health-care system is
so poor the government can only spend about two dollars a person a
year. Yet despite these problems, the rate of new infections has
dropped steadily. VOA’s Rory Byrne has more from Phnom Penh.

Reth is a tuk-tuk taxi driver in Phnom Penh. He was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1997.

He nearly died from an AIDS-related illness about five years ago before free drug therapy became available.

about 80 percent of all HIV-positive people in Cambodia receive free
life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. International aid groups largely pay
for the medications. U.N. officials say Cambodia spends about $49
million in public and private funds to combat the virus. "Now I make
power enough, that I can do a job, anything, it’s no problem now," says

The number of AIDS cases here has fallen in the last
decade from 3.2 percent of the population to 0.9 percent today. Credit
is given to condom distribution programs and education on how to
prevent transmission of the virus.

The United Nations AIDS
co-ordinator in Cambodia, Tony Lisle, says the government has done a
good job. "I think the main reasons behind this remarkable success is
the enormous commitment of government. I think very strong partnerships
between government and civil society, NGOs, and other partners to
ensure that we had a very, very comprehensive program that addressed
the high points of the epidemic, the epicenter of the epidemic, which
is basically sex workers and their clients."

Cambodia is poor and is recovering from decades of conflict. Thousands of women see no choice but to become sex workers.

workers, like Dr. Sophal Kaing, teach safe-sex practices in brothels.
"We prevent HIV from (by) using 100 percent condom use. It means she
use the condom to (with) every client, even her sweetheart."

Cambodian prostitute says, "We have to beg the customer, we have to
talk to him. And if he still does not agree to use a condom, I will
refuse to have sex with him."

Despite the progress, experts warn
there remains a chance the infection rate could still rise,
particularly among gay men, injecting drug users and so-called indirect
sex-workers — women working in bars and clubs.

Tony Lisle from
UNAIDS adds, "I think the biggest challenge for all the partners who
are at the front line of the response is to really ensure that we
address indirect sex work (ers) and their clients because behavioral
trends are changing, people are moving to sweethearts and indirect sex
work so that’s what we really need to keep our accelerator on."

these dangers, experts say the lesson from Cambodia is that if the
political will is there, the disease can be contained, even in the
poorest nations.

Source: Ki Media

I personally say that AIDS in Cambodia is still at large, we must continue our fights against it.


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