Nearly half of young men surveyed in seven provinces and the capital early this year reported symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases and 83 percent said they had paid for sex with a woman, according to data released yesterday by the Education Ministry an NGO combating HIV/AIDS.
The survey also collected data on young people’s behavior use of alcohol and drugs and unsafe sexual practices, which are risk factors, and their access to sexual health services.
Nearly 2,500 people aged between 10 and 24 were interviewed in high-risk “hot-spots”–including karaoke parlors, massage parlors and computer game shops–in higher-HIV prevalence provinces and Phnom Penh.
Of 1,236 females and 1,253 males, 41 percent of males and 23 percent of females were sexually active. Of these sexually active males, 83 percent had paid for sex with a woman in the past year, and 43 percent had the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection and were not seeking treatment.
Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they were worried others in the community might find out if they sought sexual health advice or treatment.
Most young people surveyed drink alcohol, with 70 percent and 91 percent of female and male respondents respectively saying they had tried it, but only 3.5 percent of females and 15 percent of males reported using drugs.
Cambodia has been relatively successful in preventing new HIV infections, bringing the prevalence rate down to an estimated 0.7 percent from its peak of 3 percent in 1997.
But according to Isabelle Austin, a representative for UN children’s agency Unicef, now is not the time for complacency.
“Data from HIV testing shows that we had more than 11,000 new infections in 2009,” she said.
“It is critical that…evidence informed HIV prevention efforts reach those who are at higher risk.”
Ton Saim, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, which carried out the survey with the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance, and with support from UNAIDS, Unicef, the World Health Organization and other partners, said it was important that policymakers take this data into account.