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Condom sales drop after karaoke edict

Population Services International (PSI), an international NGO, has reported a slight

dip in condom sales for 2001.

At the same time a leading AIDS expert has warned the rate of condom use by men in

Cambodia, which has the highest HIV rate in the region, was too low.

PSI said that sales of its subsidized condoms dropped around 1 percent to 16 million;

the sharpest fall came after Prime Minister Hun Sen's directive to close all karaoke

parlors in November, said Om Chhen, PSI's marketing manager.

Hor Bun Leng, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's National Center for HIV/AIDS,

Dermatology and STDs, said that preliminary estimates for 2001 showed that 80 percent

of prostitutes were using condoms. At most three-quarters of men were doing so.

"Our target is to have more than 90 percent of prostitutes and clients using

condoms," he said. "When we achieve that target the infection rate will

drastically drop. We are looking for the infection rate to decrease from 2.8 percent

to 1 percent."

Bun Leng said the MoH was aiming for 100 percent condom use, but he thought that

was unrealistic.

"I hope we will achieve [more than 90 percent] by 2003, but if not I don't see

too much danger provided we are allowed to maintain our current funding level of

$2 million a year."

He also doubted that closing karaoke parlors and nightclubs would significantly affect

ongoing efforts by NGOs such as PSI to educate sex workers.

"After the closures some areas simply changed from karaoke parlors to beer gardens,

massage parlors and restaurants," he explained. "But if they are involved

in commercial sex, we still meet them."

A study released by the center estimated the infection rate for 2000 was 2.8 percent

of the population. Bun Leng expected statistics for 2001 would be released in April.

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