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AIDS/HIV News Archive: CAMBODIA


Media Campaign to Highlight HIV/AIDS Issues in Cambodia 3/2/04 --Agence France Presse

On Tuesday, Giselle Portenier of the BBC World Service Trust told reporters that the organization would launch a two-year media campaign in May to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS and reproductive, maternal and child health issues in Cambodia. "We are hoping to have a huge impact on HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health," she said at a two-day workshop in Phnom Penh. Currently in Cambodia, one in eight children dies before age five. With 2.8 percent (170,000) of its adult population infected, Cambodia has the highest HIV infection rate in Asia. About 80,000 people have died of AIDS since 1993. Secretary of State for Health Mam Bun Heng welcomed the campaign, which is sponsored by the British government.


Cambodia Turns to Soap Opera in Fight Against AIDS 26/05/03 -- Reuters

In its latest efforts to contain HIV, Cambodia has launched a soap opera with an AIDS theme. Following a condom campaign targeting Cambodia's sex industry, AIDS campaigners are shifting their focus to families, trying to prevent the many thousands of husbands who regularly visit prostitutes from passing HIV on to their wives. The 12 episodes follow a young couple that is driven apart because the man, Khieu, is too poor to marry. Mom, his girlfriend, is lured to Phnom Penh under false pretenses; she ends up working in a brothel, where she becomes the mistress of a rich businessman. A year later, Mom and Khieu are reunited - and when it becomes clear she has AIDS, he takes her back to the countryside and nurses her until she dies. The series airs on several national channels, and each episode is followed by a talk show on AIDS and sex.


Cambodian leader says AIDS more deadly danger than land mines 02/10/02 -- Associated Press

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that AIDS is Cambodia's most dangerous scourge - deadlier than the millions of land mines that still dot the countryside after decades of war Cambodia has an HIV infection rate of 2.6 percent, the highest in Southeast Asia, among its 12.5 million people. AIDS has killed about 90,000 people since the country's first case was discovered in 1991, and 160,000 more people are in various stages of the disease. By 2010, the death toll could reach 230,000-250,000, and some 100,000 children will become orphaned, experts said at the country's second national conference on HIV and AIDS. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. "As far as the land mine problem is concerned, we are working toward zero casualties," Hun Sen said in a speech at the close of the three-day forum. "But it (AIDS) is now getting worse than land mines because it can be spread through the family from husband to wife and to child." Nearly 1,000 participants - including HIV patients, government officials, aid donors and social workers - came to the conference to coordinate battle plans against the disease.Decades of conflict have left millions of land mines littering Cambodia, killing and maiming thousands of people. According to the national land mine clearance agency, there were about 800 casualties in land mine and ordnance accidents in Cambodia in 2001, down from 1,100 in 1999. About 45 percent of villages are contaminated by land mines. De-mining efforts, funded by foreign aid donors, have helped sharply reduce the danger from land mines, while the danger from AIDS is increasing, Hun Sen said. He urged development planners and other concerned parties "to prevent it (AIDS) from worsening and becoming another killing field for the Cambodian people," he said. The phrase "killing field" refers to atrocities carried out by the communist Khmer Rouge, who held power in the late 1970s, when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished from execution, overwork, starvation, and disease.


Cambodian Prime Minister Urges More Efforts to Fight Against AIDS 02/10/02 -- Xinhua News Agency

Speaking at the Second National AIDS Conference in Phnom Penh today, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that as many as 230,000 people will die of AIDS by 2010 without effective prevention and treatment measures. He said the disease has become the number-one killer in the nation and "a major threat to the socio-economic development of Cambodia." He called on the whole nation to pay more attention to the damages caused by HIV/AIDS, and he called on the international community to continue to support the nation's HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts.


Cambodian AIDS Patients March to Demand Government Help 01/10/02 -- Associated Press

About 300 Cambodians with HIV protested in Phnom Penh Tuesday to demand more government help. The protesters walked to a conference center where 1,000 government ministers, provincial authorities and AIDS patients are attending a three-day meeting on combating the disease. An estimated 90,000 people have died from AIDS in Cambodia since 1991. Within the next eight years, that number is expected to rise to between 230,000 and 250,000, according to Cambodia's National AIDS Authority. Fewer than 500 Cambodians receive free treatment with antiretroviral drugs from the government. "I want to live longer to care for my children, but I need more help," said Chea Pheap, 33.


Fewer Cambodian Men Paying for Sex, Condom Use Rising 23/5/02 -- Malaysian National News Agency

Fewer Cambodian men are visiting sex workers, while those who still do are using condoms more frequently, said a report released by Cambodia's National HIV/AIDS Center. The report surveyed sexual behavior last year by high-risk groups in Cambodia, where rampant prostitution is blamed for one of the region's highest HIV infection rates. Cambodia's rate of infection among adults ages 15 to 49 is 2.8 percent.

Only 20 percent of soldiers surveyed in 2001 said that they had visited a prostitute in the previous month, down from 47 percent in 1999. A study was not conducted in 2000. Among police officers, the figure dropped to 18.5 percent from 37 percent, and for motorbike taxi drivers, to 8.5 percent from 34.5 percent. "The greatest change in behavior is among men: significantly fewer had recent commercial sex," the report said.

It also noted that the rate of condom use during commercial sex had risen among all risk groups, to approximately 90 percent. The sex trade flourishes in Cambodia, where it is common for young single and married men to visit prostitutes. As tourism increases, visitors are also contributing to the boom.

Cambodian officials estimate that some 70,000 Cambodians have died from AIDS in the past decade. The new report praises the work of non-governmental organizations and also government information campaigns, which apparently have reached high-risk groups such as sex workers with messages about the importance of using condoms to protect against disease and pregnancy. "Condom promotion and risk behavior reduction has been highly successful to date in Cambodia; program effort must be maintained to sustain this positive behavior change," it said.


Cambodia Takes Measures Against HIV/AIDS 15/10/01 -- Malaysian National News Agency

Specialists of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Southeast Asia HIV and Development Project have warned that Cambodia still remains one of the world's most HIV/AIDS-affected countries. This is true despite the fact that the estimated prevalence among adults ages 15 to 49 has shown a steady decline from 3.9 percent in 1997 to 2.8 percent in 2001.

It is estimated that of the 11 million people in the country, there are about 200,000 people with HIV/AIDS, and this number is expected to grow quickly in the next five years. The epidemic is largely due to heterosexual intercourse, with men bringing infection from prostitutes to their wives, according to reports from the National AIDS Authority (NAA) and non- governmental (NGO) organizations in the country.

Two percent of Cambodian women who had blood tests and pregnancy checkups were infected with HIV/AIDS, and 4,000 babies had the virus. As many as 30,000 children have HIV, and about 200 children die of the disease annually, reports indicated. The NAA, joined by the UNDP Southeast Asia HIV and Development Project have studied the heavily affected areas along major highways, National Routes One and Five that link neighboring countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

In response to the epidemic, the NAA was set up in 1999 to strengthen policy, consolidate structures and functions for response and to mobilize resources nationally and internationally. It plans to actively work on raising public awareness of HIV transmission, to educate local people, and to launch, with provincial authorities, the 100 percent condom use programs, which will be expanded to the public nationwide.

Cambodia has drafted a National Strategic Framework for a Comprehensive and Multi-sectoral Response to HIV/AIDS 2001-2005. The government has asked related departments to pay attention to increasing respect for the rights and status of women and girls, as well as encouraging men and boys to engage in safer sexual behavior.


A New War Is Killing Cambodians 07/07/01 -- New York Times

Cambodia is fighting a new war, and it is against AIDS. "It is certainly the hot spot of the epidemic in Asia, in terms of the highest prevalence of infection," said Peter Ghys, an epidemiologist with UNAIDS in Geneva. The country is the epicenter of what Ghys said was the next potential explosion of AIDS -the Indochinese countries of Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Currently in Cambodia, about 170,000 people are believed to be infected, or nearly 3 percent of the adult population.

Cambodia, the experts say, is now at a critical moment when it is still possible to hold back full-scale disaster. UN officials are finding signs that awareness of the disease and its modes of transmission is increasing, along with increased use of condoms. And the infection rate among young sex workers appears to be dropping. Still, the country is under-developed, poorly educated, and boasts a thriving sex industry. Some men visit prostitutes before going home to their wives, whom they often infect. Casual sex among young people, too, appears to be rising.

Particularly tragic, according to Catherine Quillet, chief of the French mission of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), is that treatment for AIDS patients in Cambodia is so expensive. There also exists a stigma that causes many sufferers to be abandoned by their families and shunned by their neighbors, she said.


Regional AIDS Workshop Opens in Cambodia 02/15/00 -- Kyodo News Service

A two-day AIDS workshop opened Tuesday in Cambodia. The meeting, part of an effort to control the spread of HIV, attracted about 100 people from international agencies and government and nongovermental organization in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and China. Cambodian officials said the country has the highest rate of HIV infection in Asia, with 100 new cases of HIV and 20 AIDS-related deaths each day.


Cambodia PM Backs Mandatory Condom Use in Brothels 10/16/99 -- Reuters

The soaring rate of HIV infection in Cambodia has prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to support efforts for mandatory condom use in brothels throughout the country. Cambodia has approximately 180,000 cases of HIV, with an estimated 100 new infections per day. Prostitution--which is illegal in Cambodia--is helping to spread HIV into the community, as men transmit the virus to their wives. The new policy strives for 100 percent condom use and will cost about $2 million annually, according to health officials.


AIDS in Cambodia Said as Lethal as Pol Pot Regime 16/9/99 -- Reuters

Cambodian officials announced Thursday that HIV could be as deadly for the country as the radical Khmer Rouge regime, when 1.7 million people were killed between 1975 and 1979 during the rule of Pol Pot. An estimated 100 Cambodians contract HIV Daily, and 180,000 people are already infected with the virus. Unprotected heterosexual sex is the primary mode of transmission in Cambodia, and officials note that HIV is spreading from high-risk groups to the general community.


Cambodia Plans Condom Program to Combat High AIDS Rate 9/6/99 -- Nando Times

Cambodian officials announced Monday that they plan to enforce condom use in the country's brothels. Statistics from the Health Ministry's HIV/AIDS Control Center indicate that about 100 new HIV infections occur in Cambodia every day, up significantly from last year's estimates of 50 to 70 new cases a day. Health officials noted that tests of the "100 Percent Condom-Use Program" found it an effective way to stem HIV transmission as the result of sex with commercial sex workers. Approximately 50 percent of the country's 20,000 sex workers are thought to be infected with HIV.


Cambodian Officials Concerned About 'Beer Girls' and AIDS 20/7/98 --Nando Times

Health officials are concerned that foreign beer companies promoting their labels in Cambodian bars and restaurants by using attractive "beer girls" to pour beer are encouraging the spread of HIV. The 4,000 to 5,000 beer girls, who wear gowns to match the label of the beer they are selling, often have sex with clients after their shift--some for pay, some not--and may have a greater chance of getting HIV because they do not consider themselves prostitutes. A 1997 survey by the Ministry of Health reported that 10 percent of beer girls say they always use condoms, versus 42 percent of prostitutes. Cambodia Brewery Ltd., which employs 600 beer girls and has about 60 percent of Cambodia's beer market, says it prohibits fraternizing with customers and educates its employees about HIV and AIDS.


Explosive Spread of HIV-1 and Sexually Transmitted Diseases 18/4/98 --Lancet

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the "alarming" rate of HIV-1 and other STD infection in Cambodia. Caroline A. Ryan and colleagues examined 314 women seeking reproductive health services, 322 male police and military personnel, and 437 brothel-based female sex workers for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV-1 in various regions throughout Cambodia. The sex workers had the highest incidence of STD infection, with a 38.7 percent chlamydial and/or gonococcal infection prevalence, 13.8 syphilis seroactivity rate, and a gonorrhea incidence ranging from 10 percent to 39 percent. The men had a 6.2 percent urethral infection rate--2.1 percent with syphilis and 5 percent with gonorrhea--and a 6.6 percent syphilis seroactivity rate. Women who attended reproductive health clinics showed a 5.3 percent gonococcal infection rate and 4 percent were syphilis seroactive. Female sex workers also had a 40.6 percent HIV-1 seroposivity rate, as compared to a 12.5 percent rate among the male subjects and a 4.5 percent rate among the other female subjects. The researchers also found that nine of the HIV-1 samples were a subtype E strain close to a prototype Thai E strain, indicating that the virus may have spread regionally from Thailand. The researchers also noted that, with 56 percent of men claiming that they had sex with a female sex worker in the preceding month and 88.5 percent in the past year, intervention focused on commercial sex is urgently needed to stop the dissemination of STDs and HIV-1 in Cambodia.


AIDS Seen Taking Huge Economic Toll in Cambodia Oct 17, 1997

Cambodia, a country struggling with high rates of poverty, malnutrition, and poor education, also faces the highest rate of increase of HIV infection among Asian nations, according to a new United Nations report. As many as 120,000 of some 11 million Cambodians are believed to be HIV-positive, and the resulting increases in AIDS cases could cost the country close to $3 billion over the next nine years, the U.N. said. Up to 1 million individuals could be infected by 2006, the report noted. -- Reuters


EX-REBEL WIVES TAKE UP ARMS TO SHUT BROTHELS Apr 16, 1997

Former Khmer Rouge women who crossed sides to join the Government with their husbands and sons have taken up a new fight. Armed with machetes and guns, they have stormed brothels, forcing their immediate closure and the eviction of prostitutes. The women - many of them former battalion commanders - say they want to stop the spread of AIDS. "Some of these women are former commanders. When they pick up a gun they know how to use it." -- By TRICIA FITZGERALD, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST


CAMBODIA: MONK'S MEDICINE VATS OFFER LAST HOPE TO AIDS VICTIMS Apr 13, 1997

A STEADY trickle of tinted-window Land Cruisers pull up discreetly on the dusty rubbish-strewn street outside the Svay Don Kum Pagoda in central Phnom Penh at sunset each day. Inside the luxury vehicles are high-ranking military officials desperately seeking out Buddhist monk Pal Horn, who is operating Cambodia's only real HIV/AIDS treatment centre - a traditional response to an epidemic which is spreading faster in Cambodia than anywhere else in the region.

In a country where basic medical treatment is poor and expensive, and advanced anti-AIDS treatments are unavailable, Pal Horn's mixture of traditional medicine and Buddhist counselling is the only hope for a rapidly increasing number of Cambodians with AIDS. Pal Horn says as many as 2,000 Cambodians with AIDS, many of them desperate and suicidal, have found their way to his pagoda, some from as far afield as Canada, Thailand and France.

Four or five times a day, the monk presides over a ritualistic spraying of water from the pagoda's well, part of the treatment process, which AIDS sufferers flocking to the pagoda believe has magic powers. Pal Horn does not try to treat people whom he describes as being beyond the "seventh stage" of AIDS. "I tell them to go back to their villages and seek out the monks. "It is only to help them before they die," he says.

National HIV/AIDS Director Dr Hor Bun Leung says Pal Horn's traditional approach relieves the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and the monk "provides good counselling and treatment". -- SOURCES EAST ASIA


Risky sexual behavior in Cambodia unchanged by AIDS awareness: study Mar 2, 1997

PHNOM PENH - Although Cambodians' awareness of AIDS has increased in recent years, their sexual behavior has not changed, putting the country at greater risk of devastation from the deadly disease, health workers said over the weekend. The survey, released Friday, indicates that more than 40 percent of Cambodian men between 25 and 30 continue to visit prostitutes and that nearly half of those men used condoms only "sometimes" or never at all. Moreover, the survey showed that less than six percent of all men, including those who visit commercial sex workers, used condoms during intercourse with their wives.

Such attitudes have the potential to ruin Cambodia, according to researchers who note that the country with a population of just over 10 million already has between 90,000 and 120,000 HIV infected people. United Nations officials, who say that Cambodia may have Asia's highest percentage of HIV carriers, predict that as many as 30,000 Cambodians may die of AIDS-related illnesses in the next five years.

The survey, which interviewed more than 1,300 people in both rural areas and urban centers, also found that while awareness of AIDS may be increasing, knowledge of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is minimal, consituting another risk. Sixteen percent of urban respondants and 12 percent of rural respondants reported having contracted at least one STD in the past year and the infection rate among women was twice that of men. -- Copyright (c) 1997 Agence France-Presse


Cambodian Blood Supply Tainted by Demand Dec, 1996

Due to an aversion among Cambodians to the practice of donating blood, donors in Phnom Penh are sometimes paid by desperate blood centers--despite a law against it. The practice concerns health officials who fear that paid donors are threatening the safety of the blood supply. A pint of blood sells for between $50 and $200, which is several times more than the average monthly salary. The people who sell blood, often prostitutes or intravenous drug users, are 10 times more likely to have HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases than other donors, according to Dr. Monique Gue Guen, who operates the National Transfusion Center in Cambodia.

About 6.5 percent of blood donations at the center tested positive for HIV last year, a higher rate than any other Asian country has reported. In Thailand, where screening procedures are especially good, the rate of HIV-positive donations was 0.3 percent. -- Nature Medicine


AIDS-Free in 1991, Cambodia Now Tops HIV Rate Nov 22, 1996

Although Cambodia had virtually no AIDS cases five years ago, the country now has the highest HIV infection rate in Asia. Health officials estimate that 1 percent of the population, including 2.5 percent of pregnant women, is infected with HIV. The spread of the virus is attributed to prostitution and a lack of condom use. -- Washington Times


`GOLDEN FLOWERS' A THRIVING TRADE Oct 14, 1996

PHNOM PENH: Mr Rith Thy 27, is in what one may refer to as a supporting industry in a seedy district of Phnom Penh. He peddles condoms near brothels in Toul Kork - district proliferate with rank, filthy, makeshift sheds of broken and loose boards, thatched roofs and paper-thin wooden wall. Inside these shacks, "golden flowers" (polite Khmer term for prostitutes) provide various services for as little as $2.

A recent survey in 18 provinces in Cambodia showed that 50% of people tested were HIV positive. The survey, conducted by the National AIDS Prevention Committee (NAPC), showed that of those who tested HIV - positive, 48% were commercial sex workers and the remaining 52% comprised policemen, soldiers and pregnant women.

However, statistics from the Ministry of Health show that only between 100,000 and 120,000 people, more than 1% of the Cambodian population, are HIV-positive. The ministry's statistics also showed that between 300,000 and 500,000 women are engaged in the commercial sex industry. Even more alarming is the revelation by a Unicef survey that at least one third of Phnom Penh's prostitutes are under 18 years of age. Many of these women/girls have reportedly been forced or sold into prostitution by their husbands or parents.

More than one million condoms are sold in Cambodia every month. For a country with a population of just 10m, that is an amazingly large quantity of rubber.

In Cambodia, one cannot lay the blame for the existence or growth of the commercial sex trade at the feet of the foreigners alone. Cambodian men are quite ready to admit that they seek the favours of prostitutes, even though they may be married and have two or three girlfriends on the side. It has become very much a part of life. For many Cambodian men, giving his friend a treat means taking him to a brothel. Men who decline such favours are looked upon as unusual, even abnormal. An unmarried Malaysian man, who declined a similar treat, was asked if he was a homosexual. Another Malaysian, obviously happily married, was asked if he was a henpecked husband. --By Leela Barrock, BUSINESS TIMES (MALAYSIA)


SEXUAL REVOLUTION AFOOT IN CAMBODIA Oct 11, 1996

PHNOM PENH-- A two-year study has shattered the traditionally chaste image of Cambodia's young women and raised serious concerns about the spread of AIDS among the country's youth. The Cambodian AIDS Social Research Project found that roughly one-third of young women are sexually active in this traditionally restrictive culture, but none use condoms, researchers said this week.

About 87 percent of young men are having sex with their girlfriends, prostitutes or -- in the case of 10 percent of the subjects -- with other males. But nearly half of sexually active men never use a condom, despite the fact that Cambodia has one of Asia's fastest growing infection rates of HIV, the study said. --by Katya Robinson, (c) Reuters Limited 1996 SOURCES REUTER NEWS SERVICE


AIDS May Prove as Devastating As the Reign of the Khmer Rouge July26, 1996

HIV has spread rapidly in Cambodia since it was first screened for in 1991, and experts say the epidemic could be one of the most serious in Asia. The World Health Organization estimates that there may now be between 100,000 and 150,000 HIV infections in the country, up from a November estimate of 50,000 to 90,000. The group says there are about 2,000 AIDS cases in Cambodia and predicts that there will be 40,000 cases by the year 2000. The disease is spreading faster in Camboodia than in any other Asian nation, except Burma and India. -- IPS Wire


Aids threatens future of Cambodia's military July18, 1996

"Between five to 15 per cent of the Cambodian armed forces are HIV-positive, and the threat of contamination continues to mount," said Veng Bun Lay, citing statistics -from the National Aids Committee. High-ranking officers are now "very, very concerned" about the problem of soldiers infected with the virus that causes Aids, Veng Bun Lay said. The military has incorporated Aids education into training, and the World Health Organisation and UN agencies have helped with education and condom distribution. But the spread of the disease, especially in provinces bordering Thailand where it is rampant because of the huge prostitution industry, shows little sign of slowing.

"This year, 10 per cent of the soldiers tested in two provinces were HIV positive," said Macarry. It is believed that soldiers suffer particularly high rates of sexually-transmitted diseases due to their mobility, their frequent visits to prostitutes, and a disinclination to use condoms. While the services of a local prostitute cost less than a beer, soldiers with salaries ranging from US$12 (Bt300) to $20 a month are reluctant to buy condoms.

A survey of 1,173 prostitutes in 1995 showed that an average of 38 per cent of sex workers nationwide were infected with the virus, said Macarry. In some of the provinces where the same group of women were tested this year, that number has reached 48 per cent, she said. Military hospitals, lacking personnel and budget, are also believed to inadvertently add to the spread of HIV. Especially during the November-to March dry season, when fighting between the government and Communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas intensifies, many doctors move from one patient to the next using the same surgical instruments without properly sterilising them. Needles and syringes are reused due to lack of money. -- The Nation


UN: Cambodia Thwarts AIDS Prevention Mar, 1996

The United Nations' human-rights representative in Cambodia, Michael Kirby, said last week that Cambodia is thwarting the fight against AIDS by closing brothels, harassing sex workers, and taking down posters promoting condom use. Such moves drive commercial sex underground and make AIDS education more difficult, he said.

A government spokesman replied that authorities are not harassing sex workers, just trying to "contain and control" them, and he denied the government had removed condom posters. -- by Rex Wockner, Copyright (c) 1994 Rex-Wockner-affiliated publications.


HIV Spreading Dec 19, 1995

CAMBODIA-- Upwards of 90,000 Cambodians may be infected with HIV, sharply up from the August estimate of 30,000. The gender ration of infection is three males to one female, with 90 percent of infections in the 15 to 35 age group. These figures were obtained from surveys this year among police, the military, prostitutes and pregnant women in Phnom Penh and eight provinces. -- Bangkok Post, The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. All rights reserved 1996.


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