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AIDS draws crowds

AIDS draws crowds

More than 1,000 people marched on Sunday, Dec. 5, in Cambodia's first AIDS public

awareness event.

The marchers, who walked from Independence Monument to the Royal Palace, displayed

posters and banners promoting AIDS awareness, protection and education.

Dr Penelope Key of the World Health Organization (WHO), who helped organize the event

along with more than 30 international and local NGOs, said few people here realize

the danger of AIDS.

"Cambodians suffer and die from TB, malaria, dysentery," she pointed out.

"But we have to talk about this new virus before it's too late for hundreds

or thousands of Cambodian men and women."

Cambodia was virtually AIDS-free until it began opening up to the rest of the world

and before UNTAC arrived in 1991.

Only three cases of the HIV virus which causes AIDS were officially reported in 1991,

30 in 1992 and over 60 are expected to be identified in 1993

Rick Renas, an AIDS consultant to WHO, says the spread of HIV is due primarily to

cross border traffic with Thailand and the reuse of needles in Cambodia's medical

facilities.

"HIV does not respect borders," says Dr Key. "It doesn't stop at check

points, but it comes through them with the people."

Most of Cambodia's HIV infections are discovered by screening blood that is voluntarily

donated to the blood bank in Phnom Penh.

WHO estimated 14 million men, women and children world-wide are infected with HIV

and that, by the year 2000, the figure will rise to between 30 and 40 million. (+Reuters)

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