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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rise in HIV testing signals greater public awareness

Rise in HIV testing signals greater public awareness

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090318_05.jpg

NGOs want better access to garment factories, onsite testing to help HIV-positive workers who may be unaware of status.

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AFP

Cambodian workers leave a garment factory in Phnom Penh last week. The factories, dominated by women, have become a target group for health organisations and government departments promoting reproductive health and HIV/AIDS testing.

MORE Cambodian women are seeking blood tests to screen for HIV/AIDS, a report released Monday said, giving promise to the strength of recent awareness campaigns.

The report, compiled by the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC), said 40,587 women had received an HIV/AIDS blood test in 2008, compared with 38,660 in 2007.

"Blood tests are important because they reduce the chance of the virus spreading and the chance of the virus becoming deadly," said Dr Chak Chenda, clinic manager of RHAC.

"We are now planning to publish a guide book and leaflets on reproductive health to be distributed in communities, and also organising a peer group education program in which a trained volunteer will work in communities to give people information," she said.

The organisation claimed the increase was due to an increasing number of awareness campaigns about reproductive health.  

Mean Chivoan, director of the National Centre for HIV and AIDS, Dermatology and STD, told the Post that distribution of information about blood tests has been carried out by the government since 2001, when it began handing out information to community groups and garment factories.

As I am aware, many factory workers have aids, but they keep it a secret.

"We will promote blood tests amongst women because we believe that it is important. Without a blood test, women cannot be sure if they have HIV/AIDS, and this is particularly important for pregnant women," he added.
The blood test is free and available at state and referral hospitals across the country.

Factories join the cause

Cheat Khemara, senior labour official of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, told the Post the numbers reflect the recent partnering of health organisations and garment factories, where around 300,000 Cambodian women work.

"We have incorporated a health program into garment factories in cooperation with NGO CARE so that it is easier for workers to get their blood tested," he said.

"We know that some women working in factories in Cambodia are carrying the HIV/AIDS virus, and that life-prolonging medicines are often given to them secretly.... We would like to appeal to all workers that if they have any doubt about their health, they should get a blood test," he added.

"We would also like to call on all factories to help provide health facilities and services for their employees so that they are able to have their blood tested. All companies and factories should provide care to employees who have HIV/AIDS so that they have the mental strength to continue their work."

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Cambodia, told the Post that most garment factory workers are still forced to have their health checked at the Labour Health Centre, which he says requires individuals to pay large amounts of money in bribes.

"Usually women who work for factories do not understand the importance of having blood tests. They only go if they are helped or guided by NGO workers" he said.

"It is good to encourage factory workers to go for a blood test. As I'm aware, many factory workers have AIDS, but  they keep it a secret."

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