Cabinet Minister Sok An opened the Third National AIDS Conference on Wednesday during a ceremony at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Conference Hall by laying out a series of challenges.
In his keynote speech, Sok An acknowledged that the government’s 100 percent condom use program in brothels conflicts with the recent police crackdown on prostitution, and he asked the hundreds of health workers participating in the three-day gathering to find a solution.
“If we do not enforce the law, then sex work is open and it becomes legal, and this, society cannot accept,” he said.
“But if [police] take harsh measures, then [sex workers] start hiding in a way we cannot access them,” he said.
“This becomes a threat as well that it will bring up the [HIV/
AIDS] prevalence rate because people who want to help them cannot find them.”
Sok An also asked public health workers to find a way to aggressively reach out to at-risk communities, including karaoke and beer garden employees, men who have sex with men, garment workers, construction workers and students.
“Please, go there and explain AIDS, and the effect of AIDS on them, and the effects on families and society,” he said.
Sok An’s suggested method: “to prevent, to make [them] understand and to scare them,” he said.
“If people are not scared and they only understand, it is not effective.”
“To advance national development, we must have a healthy people, both physically and mentally, and at present, HIV is threatening our population—affecting our labor force, leaving children orphans and, for some, husbands and wives infected with HIV/
AIDS,” he said.
“People will have lovers die and families driven to poverty, so HIV prevention is a good goal for redeveloping social stability and safety,” he said.