Anti-Retroviral Treatment Rate Nearing Goal

More than 92 percent of Cam­bodians living with HIV/AIDS were provided with anti-retroviral treatment in 2008, an approximate 7 point increase over the percentage of patients who received such treatments last year, according to the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs.

The center’s annual report, to be officially released in a few weeks, shows Cambodia coming closer to its objective of making ARV drugs available to all who need them by 2010, said the center’s director, Dr Mean Chhi Vun.

“We cover now 92 percent; our target is 97 [percent] by 2010. The universal access target is about 85 [percent], but for Cambodia, we want to provide antiretroviral treatment to [all],” he said, adding the ARV access rate was at about 85 percent in 2007.

The treatment was provided free of charge last year to 31,989 pa­tients, including 3,067 children, in 77 government-run health centers and partner organizations, Mean Chhi Vun said.

Reaching the last few pockets of untreated people will be difficult, and keeping up efforts and funding in the next few years will be essential, he said.

“That’s excellent news, but it isn’t the full story in terms of who actually needs the antiretroviral treatment in Cambodia,” Graham Shaw, technical adviser for HIV, co-dependence and harm reduction at the World Health Organization, said of the 2008 statistics.

He credited NCHADS with delivering on its promise for universal access to treatment, but added that many people still don’t get treatment because they don’t know they’re HIV-positive.

“We find many of them are un­willing to go the sites where they can be tested for HIV,” he said.

Mean Chhin Vun conceded that was an issue, saying testing remain­ed stagnant from 2007 to 2008, with about 380,000 people tested each year.

“We hope that [in] the year 2009, the number of people who [agree to] testing is increased to a half million or 600,000,” he said, adding that the government would be targeting pregnant women and tuberculosis patients in particular.


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