HIV Awareness Tops Agenda for UN Goodwill Ambassador

Japanese Olympic medalist Yuko Arimori completed a four day visit to Cambodia this week, her first as a UN Goodwill Am­bas­sador to the country.

Marathoner Arimori, a silver medalist at the 1992 Barcelona games, has taken a year off from competitive running in order to promote reproductive health among young women. She has been to Cambodia on numerous occasions to compete in the Ankgor Wat half-marathon, but this was her first trip as the UN Population Fund’s Goodwill Ambassador.

During her visit, she was accompanied by a team of Jap­anese journalists who will publicize her efforts to raise money and awareness in support of reproductive health projects in Cambo­dia, officials said. The money will be raised in Japan by the NGO Japanese Organization for Inter­national Cooperation in Family Planning and will be facilitated by the UNFPA.

They hope to raise enough money to support youth services at a clinic sponsored by the NGO Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia in Takeo province, officials said.

Arimori began her trip with a tour of several brothels in the Svay Pak district of Phnom Penh, in order to gauge the awareness of HIV and AIDS among commercial sex workers, UNFPA officials said.

She was not shocked to see the crowded brothels, she said, but rather at the fact that the young women did not know they are at risk.

“Those girls did not know anything about HIV and AIDS even though in Cambodia it is a big social issue,” she said.

In Takeo she observed a RHAC health clinic.

“Currently the clinic in Takeo only offers services for married women, and we feel that is important for them to offer youth services,” said Kiyoko Ikegami of JOICFP.

RACH has facilities in Phnom Penh that Arimori also visited. Those clinics offer youth services and they serve as a prototype for the proposed project in Takeo, officials said.

Arimori “had discussions with young people who are already exposed to youth targeted reproductive services,” UNFPA Pro­gram Officer Motoko Seko said “They are the ones that we consider the outcome.”

The centers in Phnom Penh, she said, should serve as a prototype for the one in Takeo.

Arimori also spent a day speaking with street children at the NGO Mith Sam­lanh/Friends and made a visit to their condom cafe.

“I am always exci­ted to see children,” she said, “but I did not expect the number of [street children] to be so huge. Besides the NGOs, we would like to see the government take a role to tackle the issue of street children.”

Arimori, who left Sunday, will be back in Cambodia later this year to see how the funds that she has helped raise are implemented.

 

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