Health Officials Decry Plight of AIDS Orphans

Ministry of Health officials commemorating World AIDS Day at Wat Phnom on Monday recognized orphaned children as one of the greatest casualties of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Cambodia currently is faced with an increasing number of or­phans whose parents die of HIV/AIDS,” said Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state at the Health Ministry and chairman of the National AIDS Authority.

Mam Bun Heng lauded pagodas for the care-taking role they have assumed with AIDS or­phans, but said more work must be done to offer orphans needed support.

“We are seeking for others to reply in communities to solve the orphan matter,” he said to more than 500 HIV/AIDS patients, government officials and civil society members.

Official figures on children orphaned by HIV/AIDS are not available, he said, noting instead that the rate of adult Cambodians with HIV has dropped.

From 1997 to 2002, HIV prevalence rates dropped from 3.8 percent to 2.6 percent of the adult population. Infection rates also are dropping. National figures show that 20 people per day were infected with HIV/AIDS in the last year, down from 100 daily infections in previous years.

It is estimated that 163,000 Cambodian adults are HIV-positive or have AIDS.

Dr Veronique Bortolotti, a World Health Organization HIV/AIDS consultant, said de­cline could be attributed to people dying of AIDS and to the slower rate of new HIV infections. But recently recorded HIV/AIDS numbers may not be comparable to earlier rates, Bortolotti said. Surveys taken in the 1990s measured fewer prov­inces and fewer people, which likely translated to higher prevalence rates.

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng warned on Monday that the social effects of HIV/AIDS are too grave to be met with apathy. (Additional reporting by Kate Woodsome)


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