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Alarm over AIDS virus figures

Alarm over AIDS virus figures

The Ministry of Health is "very concerned" after new figures showed the rate

people are being infected with the AIDS virus is soaring.

One expert

said the disease appears to be spreading faster in this country than it did in

Thailand, where some figures say one in 50 sexually active adults is HIV

positive.

The number of positive tests last year for the virus has leapt

by 155 percent compared with 1992, according to research by the World Health

Organization in conjunction with the ministry.

WHO's latest projection of

the number of Cambodians who are now HIV positive is between 2,000 and

4,000.

Dr Tea Phaly of the Ministry of Health's National AIDS Committee

said: "I think at present AIDS is nearly top priority for the Ministry of

Health. We are very concerned about the situation."

The figures are

rates of infection among blood donors and Dr Phaly said the majority of them

were men aged 25-55.

The newest statistics, for last month, show that

2.48 percent of people offering to donate blood are HIV positive, with an

accumulated total of those known to be infected up to 347.

The figure

over the whole of last year averaged to 1.97 per cent of people offering blood

being HIV positive, 20 times higher than the rate of 0.076 recorded in Phnom

Penh in 1991.

Based on the January figure, Dr Phaly said it appeared the

virus was spreading faster than in Thailand where 0.8 percent of blood donors

was found to be postive in 1992.

"For us, the disease began occurring

just about two years ago, but the rate of infection is two times higher, 0.8

to1.97 percent, over the same time," he said.

Dr Phaly said most of those

voluntarily undergoing blood tests were men who had had sex with a

prostitute.

One of the only ways in Phnom Penh to obtain a free AIDS test

is to offer to give blood. This could be a distorting factor on the

statistics.

For the first time last year there were some figures on the

incidence of the AIDS virus in the provinces. Battambang had the highest rate

with 1.48 per cent of blood donors HIV positive during testing between June and

December.

Elsewhere in testing over the whole year Banteay Meanchey had a

rate of 1.13 percent, Pursat 0.79 percent and Kompong Chhang 0.17

percent.

Unofficial figures show there are also some HIV positive cases

in Stung Treng, Kompong Speu and Sihanoukville.

The report accompanying

the figures cited rumours of patients displaying AIDS-like symptons but

confirmed cases have yet to be reported to the Ministry of Health.

People

who are HIV positive may develop AIDS, in which the virus destroys the body's

defences against disease.

As part of the battle to halt the spread of the

disease the WHO is planning to distribute 95,000 condoms.

Phnom Penh

which is the major center of the country's flourishing sex industry is getting

the biggest share.

Dr Phaly said that people were becoming more used to

using condoms to protect them against infection.

But he added that even

though sex workers were being educated to always use them, they still faced

problems.

"Sometime they [prostitutes] cannot convince their clients to

use it, especially when the clients are drunk and start beating them," Dr Phaly

said.

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