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Free HIV tests axed

Free HIV tests axed

Siem Reap residents have had no access to free HIV blood testing since November 2012.

Testing at the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) centre in Siem Reap used to be free but the organisation had to introduce fees after USAID withdrew funding for blood testing and now just provides financial support for buying medicine, according to a spokesperson at RHAC.

HIV testing now costs $3 per test, which some NGOs feel will be a deal-breaker for unemployed or poorly salaried people.

“This will mean people either won't get tested or NGOs won't be able to pay the fees for their clients to get tested even if it is screamingly obvious that they have an STI or have been in contact with someone with HIV,” one NGO worker told The Insider.  

“Then of course they remain infected or don't know they are HIV positive and spread it to more people.”

A spokesperson for RHAC says the fees are fair.

“We set a suitable price for our people, it’s not so expensive we think,” the spokesperson said. “People are still coming to our clinic to get blood tests even though we’re now charging.”

People can still get tested at Mondol I health centre, but according to one NGO, patients are allegedly being charged an unofficial fee of 1000 riel.

Most NGOs financed by international organisations are contractually obliged not to pay facilitation fees, so even though the price may be significantly lower they are unable to legally use their services.

NGOs find that sex workers and other more at-risk patients prefer getting tested and treated at RHAC, which they find less judgmental.

According to UNAIDS, 0.6 percent of the Cambodian population aged between 15 to 49 were infected with HIV/AIDS as of 2011, compared to 0.2 percent in Australia, 0.3 percent in the UK and 0.6 percent in the US.

USAID’s new mission director for Cambodia, Rebecca Black, could not be contacted by phone.

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