Garment factory workers will be blood-tested for the HIV/AIDS virus in a
government project starting in July.
The project will be run by the
research committee of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD of
the Ministry of Health.
Saphonn Vonthanak, chief of the research unit,
said the concern is that garment factory workers are a mobile group, with most
of them coming from countryside.
The garment workers' blood research now
is just a recommendation following research from 1995-2002, but it's going to be
organized as a research agenda by June, working with national and international
NGOs, UN agencies and others related to the HIV/AIDS program, Vonthanak
The study research from 1995 to 2002 focused on direct and indirect
female sex workers, police and pregnant women.
The preliminary report of
research throughout twenty provinces/cities from 1995 to 2002 showed that 28.8
per cent of 2,109 direct female sex workers, 14.8 per cent of 1,231 indirect
female sex workers, 3.1 per cent of 4,375 police and 2.8 per cent of 9,166
pregnant women have HIV/AIDS.
In the general population, 2.6 per cent,
about 170,000 people, are living with HIV/AIDS; 20 or more people are infected
each day, according to the report of National Aids Authority.
Momthol, President of Cambodian Union Federation, said his union had an
education program raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, that
was sponsored by APHEDA from 2000 to 2003.
Currently the International
Labor Organization has sponsored his union to continue educating workers about
HIV/AIDS, but so far there has been no national or international NGO testing
workers' blood, Momthol said.
He said there was resistance among workers
to blood-tests for HIV. They were disinclined to allow an NGO to test them if
they were not in pain and showed no symptoms of HIV/AIDS, because they would
have in mind a Khmer proverb that "If the wound is not painful, don't take the
splinter of wood and touch it."
Momthol said that among more than 70,000
workers in his union, he knows of less than one per cent having HIV/AIDS,
because most workers having HIV/AIDS were very shy to tell him. "After a
worker's death, we get the information from their friends that they died because
of HIV/AIDS," Momthol said.
Sam Srey Mom, Acting President for the Free
Trade Union of Workers, said it the project was good if workers were willing to
have their blood tested, but if they were not willing, the research committee
could not force them. "We have laws to protect workers' rights."