After years of declining infection rates, Cambodia is poised for a resurgence in HIV/AIDS if a “rapid response” is not implemented to reduce drug use, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said at a conference Tuesday.
“Time is running out. We need to act, and we need to act now,” Sar Kheng told the conference organized to release several recent reports on the link between drug use and HIV/AIDS in Cambodia.
The seizure of all drugs, especially amphetamine-type stimulants, has jumped every year since the 1990s, Sar Kheng said.
Police seized almost one million ATS tablets in 2004, a four-fold increase over 2003, he said.
Two of the reports released on Tuesday contained the findings of two teams working in Phnom Penh, Poipet and Koh Kong that conducted evaluations of more than 3,800 respondents.
Two other projects were conducted in the same locations by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Health Organization with funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An International Rapid Assessment Response and Evaluation team interviewed 180 drug users in Phnom Penh and Poipet from February to June 2004. More than 95 percent of the predominantly male respondents reported using a local amphetamine-type stimulant called “yama.” About 38 percent reported using heroin, while a smaller percentage reported using marijuana, ecstasy, crystal meth, glue and ketamine, according to the report.
Another team interviewed 3,625 casino workers, beer girls and garment workers in Phnom Penh, Poipet and Koh Kong from mid-2003 to mid-2004, according to its report.
Both injection and noninjection drug users interviewed by the I-RARE team are at increased risk of HIV transmission because both groups engage in high-risk behaviors, according to the first report.
While noninjection users do not share potentially infected needles, both groups reported having unprotected sex with multiple partners. Some injection drug users interviewed also reported that they sell their blood to blood banks to make money for drugs.
The casino workers, beer girls and garment workers interviewed by the second team reported that “drugs are quite widely available and used,” but only 4 percent of respondents admitted to ever trying drugs.
Over 60 percent of the single respondents said they use condoms consistently compared with 37 percent of the married respondents.