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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Report warns drug-related HIV/Aids infection spreading rurally

Report warns drug-related HIV/Aids infection spreading rurally

Cambodia’s National Authority for Combating Drugs sees a worrying trend in the drop in treatment of drug users and rise in HIV infection

A NEW report on emerging drug patterns in the Kingdom has raised concern about the level of awareness of drug-related HIV/Aids infection among rural communities.

The report, released by the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) on Monday, shows the number of drug users receiving treatment and rehabilitation services in 10 state centres in 2008 has decreased, falling from 1,719 in 2007 to 1,005 people in 2008.

Emerging rural problem

It also remarked that the spread of HIV/Aids among drug users, once a predominantly Phnom Penh-based problem, had now extended to rural provinces and towns.

Lour Ramin, general secretary of the NACD, said in a meeting Monday that despite overall drug usage decreasing in the last year, an increase in needle-based use was evident.

"Before, most drug addicts used yaba [methamphetamine] pills by smoking or swallowing them, but now "ice" methamphetamine is also used via injection into the blood," he said.

He said the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes's  H83 project, which has examined drug centres in 12 provincial towns, also showed a sharp increase in the number of intravenous methamphetamine users who received help over the last year.  

"We worry because we know that in Phnom Penh alone, 35.1 percent of people who used drugs intravenously contracted HIV/Aids in 2007," Lour Ramin said.

Aids education vital

Unesco's representative in Cambodia, Teruo Jinnai, said that the report underlines an urgent need to address HIV/Aids education among those most vulnerable to drug abuse.  

"Those who use drugs intravenously take very high risk of being infected by HIV/Aids because their level of understanding and consideration are still low," he said. 

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