Pregnant Women, Sex Workers Focus of New HIV/AIDS Study

The 11th HIV/AIDS observation study in Cambodia, now under way, will focus on the prevalence of the infection among pregnant women, female sex workers and men who have sex with men, officials with the Na­tional Center for HIV/AIDS, Der­matology and STIs said this week.

The project, which encompasses 22 provinces and municipalities, is supported by $30,000 in funding from the Global Fund, a public-private global network that raises funds for research. Mondolkiri and Kep provinces will not be included, be­cause their populations are too small, NCHADS Director Mean Chhi Vun said Thursday.

“We hope to get official results disclosing the HIV/AIDS prevalence in Cambodia that will allow us to develop new methods for reducing the infection rate,” he said.

Fieldwork for the study will be conducted between April and June, and will involve collecting blood samples from all members of the three target groups who visit state-run clinic and referral hospitals, Mean Chhi Vun said.

Blood samples for the Men-Hav­ing-Sex-With-Men study group will be taken mainly in Phnom Penh, Bat­tambang and Siem Reap, said Ly Peng Son, deputy director for NCHADS.

The most recent prevalence study was conducted in 2006, when 0.9 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49—about 65,000 Cambodians—was found to be in­fected, Ly Peng Son said.

He added that in the 2006 study, blood samples were collected from 14,703 female sex workers and pregnant women, both key indicator groups for HIV/AIDS rates in the general population.

In that study, 14 percent of female sex workers and 1.1 percent of pregnant women was found to be infected, down from the 1998 rates of 43 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

“We cannot predict the results, but we are hopeful the HIV and AIDS prevalence rates will have de­creas­ed,” Ly Peng Son said. “We do not want to witness the spread of HIV, and we do not want more and more people to be infected with this disease.”

Later this year, NCHADS will conduct a similar study focusing on drug users, Mean Chhi Vun said.

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