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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs