HIV/AIDS awareness spots have been banned from radio and television during peak viewing hours during the Water Festival to prevent foreign tourists from perceiving a problem with the disease in Cambodia, officials said Monday.
“Broadcasting educational spots about AIDS is not good, it affects the cultural event. It will affect the tourists,” said Chea Sokhom, deputy secretary-general of the Permanent Organizing Commission for National and International Ceremonies.
HIV/AIDS awareness ads will not air during the boat races, which are normally broadcast live between approximately 11 am to 5 pm, but will be allowed at other times during the day and evening, Chea Sokhom added.
Sim Kimsan, chief of advocacy for the National AIDS Authority, said his organization will run $1,000 worth of ads on TVK during the festival, but they will run in the evenings.
He lamented that the large TV audience for the races would not receive education about the disease, but said he understood officials’ apprehensions.
“It is a good time [to reach people], but we don’t want the Water Festival to be an AIDS dissemination festival,” he said.
The authority is collaborating with other organizations to distribute 600,000 condoms as well as T-shirts, posters and informational materials during the festival.
Nop Sotheara, external relations manager for Population Services International, which markets the popular OK and Number One brand condoms, said that the most important work done during the festival is with provincial villagers who may not have access to broadcast media.
PSI will have five booths at the festival selling condoms and distributing information about preventing sexually transmitted diseases as well as malaria and avian influenza.
PSI marketing and communications manager Chann Borima said he had heard rumors of the ban, but said his company was lucky because their spots were already placed in evening slots.
“I cannot say if it is right or wrong,” he said. “More than 1 million people come from the countryside…but that is all I can say.”