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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HIV infections strike families

HIV infections strike families

Results from a government survey on HIV show that the epidemic has shifted out of

the brothels and into the home. Cambodia has few programs that tackle either maternal

or spousal transmission.

"New infections are overwhelmingly in the family," said Geeta Sethi country

program advisor at UNAIDS.

"Men infecting their wives make up one-half of new infections and mother to

child transmission accounts for one-third," she said. "What's good is that

the epidemic is obviously stabilizing."

Infections have declined by 9,000 to 157,483 between 2000 and this year, while the

percentage of adults infected with HIV dropped to 2.6 percent from 2.8 percent.

That is a further decline from the 3.3 percent peak seen in 1997 and 1998, and confirms

the downward trend that first appeared in the Sentinel Surveillance Survey of 1999.

The number of HIV-infected men in 2002 was 82,000, down from 110,000 in 1997, but

the results show that infections among women are still increasing. Currently 75,446

women have the HIV virus, around 1,000 more than two years ago.

The report claimed that the overall decrease was a result of effective interventions,

such as campaigns encouraging the use of condoms, combined with more deaths from

full-blown AIDS.

"We will need to pay a lot more attention to care, support and treatment [of

the increasing number of AIDS patients]," Sethi said.

Dr Hor Bunleng, deputy director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS and Dermatology,

noted a further decline in HIV infection among sex workers. He said infection rates

among brothel-based prostitutes in 1998 was 42.6 percent, which had dropped to 28.8

percent in this survey. He too warned that more needed to be done.

"We need to integrate HIV education into existing services and focus on husband

to wife and mother to child transmission," Bunleng said.

Sethi said young people, particularly young sex workers, had emerged as an important

focus for intervention efforts.

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