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Aids threat to 2 million

Aids threat to 2 million

U NLESS Khmer men change their sexual behavior, two million of the country's current population of nine million could die directly or indirectly because of Aids in the future, according to Dr Tea Phalla, National Program Manager of the Inter Ministerial Committee for Aids and STD Prevention and Control.

Dr Phalla, who is spearheading the campaign against AIDS in the country, said these alarming estimates are based on population and sexual activity figures.

There are an estimated two million men in the 15 to 59 age group who are capable of productive labor and who are sexually active, according to Dr Phalla, and at least 20 per cent, or 400,000 of them, go for extramarital sex.

"This means they are looking for Aids for themselves," Dr Phalla said, adding that these 400,000 men will bring Aids to 400,000 women - their wives or future wives.

While it has been estimated that every 1,000 people capable of productive labor in the industrialized countries have to look after only 616 dependents like children and old people who cannot work, the same number of young men and women in Cambodia are responsible for 1,144 dependents, according to estimated dependency ratios calculated by the World Bank and the Ministry of Information.

Given these high dependency ratios, 912,000 children and elderly people will also be severely affected or die after the 400,000 adult men they depend on, and their 400,000 wives or partners, die of Aids, according to Dr Phalla.

In addition, Dr Phalla said he estimates that about 300,000 people will get Aids through blood transfusions or from their mothers at birth, adding up to nearly two million who will die directly or indirectly from the pandemic.

The doctor said because Cambodia is poor, educating people to change their sexual behavior and to use condoms still largely depends on "inter-personal messages", or what is called in Khmer the "one crow tells ten crows" method.

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