Marking today’s World AIDS Day, officials and organizations offered mixed reviews as to how Cambodia was doing when it comes to battling the disease.
“The situation is improving but more efforts are also needed to address stigma and discrimination against people with HIV and key population at risk of HIV infection,” said Savina Ammassari, acting UNAIDS country coordinator.
Dr Ammassari said that Cambodia is close to meeting its goal of providing better access to treatment and has achieved a low prevalence rate—an estimated 0.7 percent down from a historical high of 2 percent in 1998—but more work is needed to maintain the lowered rate.
Dr Ammassari said Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sambou village, the controversial relocation site of HIV/AIDS sufferers forcefully evicted from the Borei Keila area, is improving and that residents there and at other relocation sites now have better access to treatment, care and support.
Tuol Sambou has been repeatedly denounced by local and international human rights groups for isolating HIV-infected people far from treatment and income opportunities.
“We have been very clear—situations like Borei Keila and Tuol Sambou should never happen again,” Dr Ammassari wrote.
Joe Amon, health and human rights division director at Human Rights Watch, said Tuol Sambou was a black spot on Cambodia’s re-
cord with HIV/AIDS victims. “The most unsettling point is that Cambodian authorities have never recognized this forced eviction was wrong and have not pledged to stop similar evictions in the future,” he said.
Dr Teng Kunthy, secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority, said his organization, NGOs and other stakeholders met last month to check on the progress of 21 indicators, outlined in the UN Millennium Development goals, used to assess the HIV/AIDS situation. “There are a few we need to look more deeply into,” he said, pointing to services for orphans and children of HIV/AIDS victims.
HIV/AIDS Coordination Committee Executive Director Tim Vora said Cambodia is close to providing 80 percent of the country with access to prevention information, treatment and support by 2010.