AIDS Officials, Workers Head to Asia Meeting

A delegation of more than 80 people headed by Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot will represent Cambodia at the Sixth Int­ernational Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, which starts today in Melbourne, Australia.

The delegation says it will have good news to report during a special two-hour session on Ca­m­bodia to be held Sunday.

Last year, the rate of HIV-infected people  in the 15-to-49 age group fell to 2.8 percent compared to 3.9 percent in 1997, Hong Sun Huot said.

“Cambodia has made great progress in its battle against AIDS,” he said. “We want to show other countries that our success is due to people at all levels working together.”

Cambodia still remains one of the region’s most affected countries. One byproduct of decades of war is that there are fewer people to support today’s families, said Tia Phalla, secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority. As a result, working people in Cambodia generally have more people to support financially, which makes their good health crucial for economic as well as social reasons.

The number of people with HIV in Cambodia last year was calculated at 169,000. The rate of infection among land mine deminers, soldiers and police officers was 7 percent, the highest level except for sex workers.

Impact, an AIDS-prevention project of USAID run by Family Health International, launched an education campaign six months ago, using volunteer deminers, soldiers and police officers to educate their peers.

The campaign material, des­ign­ed by the NGO Action, includes a poster promoting the use of condoms featuring Num Phirum and Ep Phoutang, two famous Cam­bodian kick boxers who are police and military officers, res­pectively.

“Maintain your strength, protect yourself against AIDS,” the poster reads under a photo of the two athletes posed in a fighting stance.

The lack of medical facilities has prompted the Ministry of Health and NGOs to implement a homecare program in Cambodia.

With only 8,000 hospital beds for a population of about 12 million, Cambodia had to find ways to help AIDS-infected people, said Pok Panhavichetr, executive director of the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance.

There now are 28 homecare teams that, with the assistance of volunteers, community leaders and monks, care for as many as 2,500 patients, Pok Panhavichetr wrote in her presentation for the Melbourne conference.

As of December 2000, 8,712 full-blown AIDS cases and 1,241 AIDS-related deaths had been reported to the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD. Estimates are there will be nearly 30,000 new AIDS cases in Cambodia by 2005.

 

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