In 1997, Cambodia was embroiled in a brutal civil war, while still reeling in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror that led to the deaths of nearly a quarter of the population through execution, torture, starvation and disease.
At the same time, Cambodia was experiencing the most serious and rapidly progressing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asia, and was on the brink of becoming one of the worst affected countries in the world. As Project Officer for STD/HIV/AIDS, I was responsible for setting up and managing UNICEF’s country program of assistance to government and international aid agencies in Cambodia, which included development of innovative multi-sector capacities for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the country.
The trip with the Royal Cambodian Navy and the WHO Malaria Team was up-lifting in a number of ways. A five hour voyage to an off-shore island on a comfortable Naval battleship, hosted by the fine crew and their impeccable leadership. In a flawless white uniform, the Cambodian Admiral embodied honor, responsibility, and respect.