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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HIV threatens to claim UNTAC's

HIV threatens to claim UNTAC's

Highest casualties casualties

Twenty-one UNTAC peace keepers lost their lives in Cambodia as a result of hostile

action, 17 were killed in traffic accidents, five died of malaria, four from heart-attacks,

20 from assorted accidents and illness, but up to 150 will probably die of AIDS.

Some 47 UN military and civilian personnel have been diagnosed HIV positive in Cambodia

but UNTAC's chief medical officer, Col Dr Peter Fraps, believes the true figure to

be as high as 150.

Many cases went unreported he says because the victims were afraid of being repatriated.

In the case of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), figures from at least

one contingent were altered before being sent to Phnom Penh.

Some countries, such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, Dr Frap believes, have a

"national policy" of reporting a much lower STD rate.

There has also been little guidance from UN Headquarters on how to deal with members

of the mission who tested positive for HIV.

"When we had the first cases," Dr Fraps recalls, "I asked specifically

what to do with HIV positives here in the mission area and I did it twice and I never

received an answer."

Instead, he pursued the policy of many armies: that a soldier who is found positive

will not be dismissed, unless he requests it.

Although Dr Fraps admits he really wanted all HIV positive UNTAC personnel repatriated,

no HIV positive UNTAC employees were repatriated before their time.

Former Eastern bloc countries figured high on the sexually transmitted disease file.

Dr Fraps thinks it was easier for them to get carried away with their first taste

of freedom, especially when they were earning ten-times their usual salaries.

"They see a lot of nice girls here who are asking for just a little money,"

says Dr Fraps, "and this was an absolutely new experience for those guys.

With a policy among some member nations of immediately shipping out anybody who contracts

a sexual disease, the doctor believes it was inevitable that cases would go unreported.

More than 5,000 treatments were provided to UNTAC personnel suffering from STDs but

the doctor estimates another 1,500 cases were never recorded.

He would like to see the United Nations implement compulsory HIV testing for all

soldiers going on future missions as well as preparation courses to avoid contracting

STDs and HIV.

He also thinks the UN should require all countries to report HIV cases contracted

in Cambodia, including those found on repatriation.

UNTAC carried out about 3,000 HIV tests on its personnel in the country but Dr Fraps

is adamant that UNTAC is not responsible for its arrival in the country. His views

are backed up by other health experts in Phnom Penh. However, he readily admits UN

personnel probably helped spread the virus.

"We have soldiers in the mission area from countries where HIV is epidemic therefore

it's absolutely likely that soldiers coming from these countries contributed to the

contamination in the area," insists Dr Fraps.

NEW FIGURES released by the World Health Organization show that by the year 2000

over 13 million women world-wide will have been infected by the HIV virus and about

four million will have died. WHO says heterosexuals face the highest risk.

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