Women With HIV Face Verbal Abuse, Threats, Report Finds

Nearly one in four HIV-positive women in Cambodia are verbally abused, and about seven percent of in­fected women receive physical abuse and threats due to their HIV status, according to a report re­leased yesterday by the Na­tional AIDS Au­thority and the UN.

The study, the largest ever on the social and economic impact of HIV in Cambodia, also found that wom­en with HIV experienced more verbal and physical aggression compared to infected men.

As many as 27 percent of people lost their job or source of in­come af­ter being diagnosed with HIV, and, in turn, this meant that twice as many girls from HIV af­fected families dropped out of school to start work to help provide for their relatives, said James Cercone, president of consultancy Sanigest In­ter­national, which conducted the study.

Families affected by HIV were more likely to be poor, but the availability of free health services and treatment meant that families in Cambodia were less hard hit by med­ical costs compared to families of HIV-positive people in other countries, he said.

“It was unexpected to see the huge impact [antiretroviral therapy] programs had on protecting people’s incomes,” he said.

The study found that HIV-affected households spent less than non-af­fected households on medical care.

More than 75,000 people living with HIV in Cambodia reside within more than 60,000 households. For the survey, researches collected data from 2,623 households affected by HIV and 1,349 households not affected by HIV between Decem­ber 2009 and February 2010.

Tony Lisle, UNAIDS country co­ordinator, said that stigmatized HIV-positive women found it harder to obtain health and social services than men: “There is still a significant journey we need to travel to eliminate stigma and discrimination.”

Oum Sopheap, executive director of the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alli­ance, warned that donor support was beginning to wane.

“Funding for HIV/AIDs programs is going down,” Mr So­pheap said. At the end of 2012, the World Food Program is scheduled to end fund­ing toward food packages that reach about 8,000 HIV-affected families, he added.

The survey found over half of HIV-affected households reported being hungry in the previous year.

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