AIDS Among Teachers Raises Literacy Fears

New figures released Thursday by the National AIDS Authority estimate that of the 164,000 Cam­bo­dians living with HIV or AIDS, more than 2,000 are teachers, a figure that could lead to rising numbers of illiteracy.

The deaths of teachers from AIDS would create a major deficit in the number of educators available to teach students how to read, leaving as many as 10,000 primary and secondary school students illiterate, said Authority Sec­retary-General Dr Tia Phalla.

“People should send their children to school even though teachers are infected with HIV/AIDS,” Tia Phalla said.

The figures were released a day before National HIV/AIDS Remembrance Day, which will be observed today at 1 pm with a candlelight vigil outside the Na­tional Library. This is the fourth year victims of HIV and AIDS have been commemorated.

Government groups and NGOs working to combat HIV and AIDS gathered at the Tuber­culosis Hospital in Phnom Penh Thursday to prepare for the event and call attention to the disease, which has killed 90,000 Cambo­dians since 1991, Tia Phalla said.

Many Cambodian HIV/AIDS victims are also victims of physical and emotional abuse, said Seng Sut Wantha, deputy director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs.

“HIV/AIDS victims should be encouraged to participate in many activities,” she said. “HIV/AIDS destroys both the physical and emotional happiness that belong to your family.”

The disease not only affects the health of its victims but can destroy their economic stability as well, Tia Phalla said. about 20,000 Cambodians living with HIV or AIDS lack enough money to buy needed food or medicine, he said.

Anti-retroviral drugs used by people living with AIDS are too expensive for most patients, Tia Phalla said.

Only 600 Cambo­dians pay the $50 a month to be treated with the drugs, he said.

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