Cambodian women are being infected with HIV by their husbands at an alarming rate, a new survey on reproductive health conducted by the ministries of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs and Health has revealed.
“Housewives are at higher risk from HIV/AIDS than sex workers,” Ung Kantha Phavy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs said Wednesday.
Of the 500 housewives surveyed early last year, 2.4 percent are HIV-positive, Ung Kantha Phavy said. One in 10 pregnant women were also found to be carrying the virus, she added.
“Many men go out and have sex with sex workers,” Ung Kantha Phavy explained. “When these men come home, they have sex with their wives.”
The same survey found more than 50 percent of police officers, civil servants and military police do not use condoms when having sex with prostitutes.
“When wives suggest their husbands wear condoms, many men get angry and say, ‘A husband and wife don’t need to use condoms.’ So women are forced to have sex with their husbands without condoms,” Ung Kantha Phavy said.
Both husbands and wives need to be educated on how best to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, and particularly HIV/AIDS, Man Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, said. “When women have knowledge and dare to speak out to their husbands about reproductive health, the figures of people infected with HIV/AIDS will be reduced,” he said.
“Both husbands and wives have to discuss reproductive health and suggest using condoms,” Ung Kantha Phavy said. “How can wives be sure if their husbands have sex with sex workers or not?”
HIV infection is not the only reproductive health issue facing Cambodian women today, Minister for Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs Mu Sochua said. “Women are also faced with a shortage of food, risky abortions, domestic violence and a lack of proper medical care,” Mu Sochua said.
The survey also found that 41 percent of pregnant women are underweight, and that at least 437 out of every 100,000 pregnant women die during childbirth.
“Only 50 percent of women receive proper medical care during pregnancy, and 30 percent are abused by their husbands,” Ung Kantha Phavy added.
Around 40 percent of children are born without the help of a professional midwife, with mothers relying on untrained community midwives who often use a traditional herbal medicine, which is extremely dangerous and sometimes even fatal for both mother and child, Ung Kantha Phavy added.