UN Report Praises Cambodia’s HIV Record

The UN has singled out Cam­bodia as a success story in the fight against HIV/AIDS in its most recent report on the epidemic, citing multi-linked, sustained prevention programs as a major contributing factor.

Cambodia still has the highest prevalence of adult HIV in all of Asia, but has reported a significant decrease in HIV among sex workers, stated the UNAIDS’ 2002 AIDS Epidemic Update. The prevalence rate among fe­male sex workers in Cambodia dropped to 29 percent in 2002 from 42 percent in 1998, the report states.

“In 1997 and 1998, we saw about 100 new HIV cases per day, but now we have about 20 new cases a day,” Geeta Sethi, the UNAIDS program adviser to Cam­bodia, said on Wednesday. “Cambodia should be commended for its multi-sector response.”

Sethi attributed much of the decline to joint efforts by government ministries and civil society that have raised HIV/AIDS awareness throughout the country.

Through the National AIDS Authority, 29 ministries have created AIDS awareness programs or departments that have educated men, women and children about how the disease is spread. Even the ministries of Defense and Rural Development have created AIDS awareness programs to educate soldiers and rural residents about the disease—raising awareness in the country about 80 percent or 90 percent, Sethi said.

Approximately 42 million people worldwide live with HIV or AIDS, with a majority of those cases in Sub-Saharan Africa, the report states. In South and South­east Asia, around 6 million people are infected with HIV or AIDS, the report states.

India and China could both potentially face a major HIV/ AIDS epidemic, according to the report. India, which had an estimated 3.97 million people living with HIV or AIDS at the end of 2001, and China, which has at least 1 million infected persons, both require much stronger efforts to combat the disease, the report states.

Cambodia, too, is facing its share of problems. While the pre­valence of HIV has either stabilized or decreased in recent years, more people with low-risk behavior are contracting the disease, Sethi said.

About eight of the 20 new daily cases of HIV in Cambodia are wives with low-risk behavior who are infected by their husbands, Sethi said. Also, about five of the 20 new daily cases are infants who are born with HIV, Sethi said.

An estimated 157,000 people in Cambodia are infected with HIV.

Indonesia, meanwhile, is also facing an increase in HIV/AIDS cases, mostly with intravenous drug users, the report states. Within the last decade, the HIV and AIDS population has in­creased to an estimated 43,000 among the country’s intravenous drug users, with that rate set to double by 2003 if this type of drug use continues at the same pace, the report states.

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