As long-time readers of The Phnom Penh Post, we write to share our concerns about a recent article “Locals say syringe handouts draw criminals” (September 28). The article reported on community concerns about a drop-in centre for drug users operated by Korsang, an internationally respected Cambodian NGO.
Regrettably, the article failed to mention the positive contributions also made by Korsang. Since 2004, Korsang has pioneered services to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug dependency in Cambodia. By courageously reaching out to drug users and sex workers on the streets where they live and work, Korsang has educated hundreds of people about HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, STDs and overdose prevention. They have literally saved lives through these services, and by offering people living on the street basic food, medical care, counselling and shelter that can help them to transition to more stable and healthy lives.
This lifesaving work has been documented in your own paper and has been recognised by the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, USAID and by dozens of NGOs around Asia who strive to emulate their success. In Bangkok this past April, Korsang was honoured with the Carol and Travis Jenkins Award from the International Harm Reduction Association.
The approach they use, “harm-reduction”, refers to science-based approaches to public health that aim to reach out to marginalised communities (drug users, sex workers and others) in order to reduce the harm that comes from their activities and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. It may be a relatively new approach to Cambodia, but harm-reduction has been proved to work in many other parts of Asia and in the rest of the world. Media coverage that highlights the sensational aspects without educating the public about the benefits of this approach only give ammunition to those who would prefer to see HIV/AIDS spread than save the lives of marginalised people.
Your reporter should have done a more thorough job of investigating the story and presenting a balanced view. We hope you will take this opportunity to deepen your understanding of the issues and educate the public.
Sara LM Davis
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The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.