Assembly Passes Landmark HIV/AIDS Law

The National Assembly passed legislation Friday making it a crime to knowingly pass the HIV virus to another person or advertise bogus cures for the deadly disease, with penalties for violators ranging from six months to 15 years in prison.

The country’s first HIV/AIDS law, which passed on a vote of 85 to 3, also makes it illegal to discriminate against a person infected with the disease and requires that an infected person reveal their condition to their spouse or sexual partner.

A husband who knowingly transmits the disease to his wife could be prosecuted under the law, said parliamentarian Men Sam On, but not if his wife knows that he is infected before she agrees to sleep with him.

“If a wife knows about it and has the willingness to share life and die together” then the husband would not be prosecuted, she said. Sex workers are not affected by the law since clients go to them, she added.

Cambodia’s booming sex trade has been one of the main factors pushing Cambodia’s HIV/AIDS infection rate to devastating levels. Though the number of new HIV/AIDS cases appears to have plateaued, Cambodia still has the region’s highest infection rate.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy used the debate on the HIV/ AIDS legislation as an opportunity to rail about the government’s spending on health care, saying it was not enough to help the maj­ority of Cambodians who cannot afford the high cost of care at private health clinics.

The allocation of $40 million is “too little,” he said. “Anti-AIDS drugs cost $26 per year but each Cambodian only gets $3 per year in the health budget,” he said.

He added that some money meant for health efforts went to the February commune council elections instead.

Parliamentarian Un Noeung said education efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS should teach people that there are other ways than sex to have fun. He said it is alarming that “Nowa­days, happiness is focused around this short moment.”


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