Use of Condoms as Evidence Is at Odds With HIV Prevention

We are very disturbed by the article “Flouting Orders, Police Use Condoms as Evidence” (June 26, page 1). The article highlights two separate court hearings in which prosecutors used condoms as evidence of procuring prostitution. The contradiction between the use of condoms as an effective public health tool and the use of condoms as evidence against sex work needs serious consideration from relevant ministries.

The “100% Condom Use Program” aims to ensure that condoms are used at all times of sexual interaction to protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. In an effort to reduce HIV transmission, the National AIDS Authority, the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control, and foreign donors have tried to raise awareness among at-risk populations and ensure that condoms are available and easily accessible when a need to use one might arise.

Evidence shows that condoms are effective in protecting against HIV infection, and fostering wide condom use is a key tool in preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs.

Cambodia’s current goal is to achieve the “three zeros” by 2020: Zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from HIV/AIDS, and zero discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS. If we are to achieve this aim together, it is crucial that different government bodies share the same vision and act in accordance with it rather than counteracting it. Police should be taught about the importance of condom use, especially those officers responsible for on-the-ground implementation of the Law on Sexual Exploitation and Prevention of Human Trafficking, so that there is no misinterpretation of the law.

We urge the government, particularly the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior, to create an inter-ministerial working group and set up a clear mechanism to address the issue of the implementation of the anti-human trafficking law. Condom use is a vital tool to protect against HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and as citizens we must have the right to this minimum protection.

Keo Tha, Women’s Network for Unity

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