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Drug users could hasten HIV spread, govt says

GOVERNMENT officials expressed concern over a potential rise in drug-related HIV infections in Cambodia at the second annual Coordination and Consultation Forum hosted by the HIV/Aids Asia Regional Program.

Teng Savong, deputy chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), said Cambodia had recovered from a potential Aids epidemic in the past but that a new trend in drug-related infections has officials worried.

"Now the number of drug-related cases has gone up," he said at the forum on Monday, adding that preventing the spread of HIV through drug use is particularly difficult.

Lour Ramin, secretary general of NACD, said the government has no reliable statistics about the number of drug-linked HIV infections, but that informal surveys and forthcoming research is expected to support government worries.
Lour Ramin also said the NACD needs to raise awareness about the threat of HIV and other health risks associated with drug use.

"For the next two years, we have a plan to respond to the spread of HIV ... that aims to address new trends in the spread of the virus resulting from illegal drug use," Lour Ramin said. He said most, but not all new HIV cases have been found in urban areas.

The first case of HIV was identified in Cambodia in 1991. By 2003, approximately 123,000 people were living with the virus.

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