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AIDS activists refocus on at-risk population

AIDS activists refocus on at-risk population

121203_02

An HIV-positive Borei Keila evictee rests in rubble outside the demolished community earlier this year, in 2012. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

To mark World AIDS Day on Saturday, groups working to combat HIV/AIDS in Cambodia have called for greater attention to demographics particularly vulnerable to the virus and finding more sustainable funding models.

Despite a reduction in Cambodia’s rate of HIV/AIDS infections in recent years, further effort is necessary to reach high-risk groups such as sex workers, drug injectors, men who have sex with men and transgender individuals, the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS and the civil-society coalition HIV/AIDS Co-ordinating Committee (HACC) say.

“We need to strengthen our programs to ensure these key populations receive the support they need to protect themselves,” Asia-Pacific WHO director Dr Shin Young-soo said.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Cambodia recently announced it would target tens of thousands from such groups, including “entertainment workers, garment-factory workers, gay men and construction workers”, in a November and December campaign to test for HIV, raise awareness and distribute condoms.

According to the WHO and UNAIDS, Cambodia is among a handful of Asian nations where the rate of new HIV infections fell by more than 25 per cent between 2001 and 2011.

Cambodia also was the only country in the region in 2011 to provide anti-retroviral therapy to more than 80 per cent of those in need – currently 56,000 Cambodians.

But such efforts were not sustainable unless Cambodia moved from a model largely financed by international donors to one largely supported by the Cambodian government, UNAIDS country co-ordinator Marie-Odile Emond and HACC director Tim Vara said.

An HACC statement says that in 2010, 96 per cent of Cambodia’s funding came from international sources, but the global economic downturn had resulted in a declining trend.

The statement adds that Cambodia is looking at a 50 per cent shortfall in its $50 million yearly HIV/AIDS budget, with major donors such as the Global Fund and USAID set to decrease their funding.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justine Drennan at [email protected]

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