News / Asia

Cambodia Faces Key Challenges in Effort to Tackle HIV/AIDS

A red ribbon, the symbol of the worldwide campaign against AIDS.A red ribbon, the symbol of the worldwide campaign against AIDS.
x
A red ribbon, the symbol of the worldwide campaign against AIDS.
A red ribbon, the symbol of the worldwide campaign against AIDS.
Robert Carmichael

Cambodia’s efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS over the past 15 years have won it praise, and put it well ahead of many other low-income countries.  But some of those most involved in the fight against AIDS are worried that an array of challenges could see some of those gains undone.

For many years, Cambodia has relied on foreign donors to fund its largely successful fight against HIV/AIDS.  In 2012, for example, 90 percent of the $50 million spent on combating the disease came from donors such as the Global Fund, the U.S. government and the Australian government.

Years of prevention, education and treatment have paid off: the rate of HIV-positive adults declined from 2 percent in 1998 to an estimated 0.7 percent, well ahead of its 2015 Millennium Development Goal target of 1 percent. The effort has been spearheaded by the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS) the government body tasked with eliminating HIV.
 
The leader of NCHADS, Dr. Mean Chhivun, has an even more ambitious goal in mind.  “So based on the experience we have in the past 15 years, based on the lessons we learned to fight against HIV and to provide better care to people who are living with HIV and AIDS, we set up a very ambitious goal to eliminate new HIV infection by 2020,” said Chhivun.
 
In Cambodia, HIV is mostly spread through heterosexual sex. The key at-risk population groups are the 36,000 or so entertainment workers, many of whom sell sex, as well as people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and transgender people.
 
Doing more with less

These high-risk groups can be difficult to find, so NCHADS and its partners have worked with civil society organizations that represent their interests. A year ago NCHADS rolled out a program offering finger-prick testing for HIV and counseling to the most at-risk populations. It currently reaches an estimated 40 percent of people in these groups; within a year, said Dr. Chhivun, it should reach 90 percent.
 
That’s all part of what Dr. Chhivun calls “doing more with less”, which has become increasingly important as donors slash funding. “So we have to identify the low-cost intervention but with high impact or good result. This is very important, you know, because we use our capacity that already built in the past 15 years to maintain our effort and also to maintain the coverage - this is the main challenge that we are facing in the future for the financial gap,” he stated.
 
But funding is just one part of the problem. Another issue is that key groups remain marginalized - some more than ever. Among those, said HACC, an umbrella group of around 120 NGOs and civil society organizations are the country’s 36,000 sex workers, nearly 15 percent of whom are HIV-positive; injecting drug users; and men who have sex with men.
 
More work ahead

Marie-Odile Emond, the country head for UNAIDS, said 83 percent of Cambodia’s 76,000 HIV-positive people now take antiretroviral drugs; and AIDS-related deaths declined 72 percent between 2005 and 2013.
 
But she said the at-risk groups are not getting enough help. Two pieces of legislation in recent years have made reaching these groups more difficult: a law to combat human trafficking, which also outlawed brothels, thereby driving much sex work underground; and legislation to improve security at the local level.
 
“And the impact of those laws has been really to lead a lot of those populations who are, you know, at risk for HIV - sex workers or drug users - to be afraid of being arrested and to then operate in a more hidden way,” explained Emond.
 
She said this is a serious concern that could undermine the effort to eliminate new infections.
 
The solution, at least in part, is for UNAIDS and others to retarget their efforts to make sure these groups know services are available. Cambodia, Emond said, is now “at a crossroads.”
 
“So it’s a very big funding change for the next few years, so we really hope that the government will increase the national funding because indeed all the investment made and the gains in the HIV response need to be sustained,” she stated.
 
To date it is the combined effort by government, the international community, civil society and the key at-risk population groups that has driven Cambodia’s success. But to meet its ambitious target of zero new HIV infections by 2020, the government will at the very least need to spend more and to ensure that different ministries pull in the same direction. So far, that is not happening.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Activist09 from: India
July 22, 2014 12:04 AM
California State University, Long Beach professor Carlos Silveira, an artist educator and social activist, wants to bring a sense of joy to impoverished children in Cambodia who are affected by HIV/AIDS. He has recruited 27 American university students to join him as part of a pilot program in using drawing and painting to help these children express their wishes and desires for their futures. As Carlos and the students grapple with the realities of a culture much different from their own, a language they don't understand, art projects that don't go as planned, and a three-week deadline, they form a bond with the children. Through these young Cambodian mentors—all of them abandoned by society—the Americans empower their own social activism and learn the true meaning of kindness, selflessness, courage, and community.

www (dot) cultureunplugged (dot) com/documentary/watch-online/play/11513/

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs