Women’s AIDS Increase May Be Social Problem

While efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS has led to a drop in cases in Cambodia, the number of wo­men infected by their husbands has increased at an alarming rate in recent years. And according to health officials at­tending the Nat­ional Forum on Wo­men and HIV/AIDS at the Min­istry of Wo­men’s Affairs on Wed­nesday, this may be more a social than a health pro­­blem.

Statistics from the National AIDS Authority show that the overall num­ber of infected people in Cam­bodia decreased from 2.1 percent in 2002 to 1.9 percent a year later. But according to the Min­istry of Health, 60 percent of HIV/AIDS pa­tients were women between 2003 and 2004. Among 100 women with HIV/AIDS, 42 were housewives infected by their husbands.

Since 1997, more women than men are infected with HIV/AIDS each year, and this has received little at­tention, said Tia Phalla, secretary gen­eral of the National AIDS Au­­thority. “The value of women in society and the importance of the family are being ignored,” he said.

Women are afraid of be­ing hit by their husbands if they sug­gest using condoms, said Thida Khus, executive director of the Cam­bodian NGO Sil­aka. Most men get angry if their wives ask them whether they have been with other partners or sex workers when they were away from home, she said.

Reducing HIV/AIDS transmission among housewives will in­volve giving women greater im­portance in society, said Mam Bun Heng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health. If they feel valued, women will be more comfortable negotiating with their husbands and protecting themselves and their children from infection, he said.

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