Population Services International (PSI), an international NGO, has reported a slight
dip in condom sales for 2001.
At the same time a leading AIDS expert has warned the rate of condom use by men in
Cambodia, which has the highest HIV rate in the region, was too low.
PSI said that sales of its subsidized condoms dropped around 1 percent to 16 million;
the sharpest fall came after Prime Minister Hun Sen's directive to close all karaoke
parlors in November, said Om Chhen, PSI's marketing manager.
Hor Bun Leng, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's National Center for HIV/AIDS,
Dermatology and STDs, said that preliminary estimates for 2001 showed that 80 percent
of prostitutes were using condoms. At most three-quarters of men were doing so.
"Our target is to have more than 90 percent of prostitutes and clients using
condoms," he said. "When we achieve that target the infection rate will
drastically drop. We are looking for the infection rate to decrease from 2.8 percent
to 1 percent."
Bun Leng said the MoH was aiming for 100 percent condom use, but he thought that
"I hope we will achieve [more than 90 percent] by 2003, but if not I don't see
too much danger provided we are allowed to maintain our current funding level of
$2 million a year."
He also doubted that closing karaoke parlors and nightclubs would significantly affect
ongoing efforts by NGOs such as PSI to educate sex workers.
"After the closures some areas simply changed from karaoke parlors to beer gardens,
massage parlors and restaurants," he explained. "But if they are involved
in commercial sex, we still meet them."
A study released by the center estimated the infection rate for 2000 was 2.8 percent
of the population. Bun Leng expected statistics for 2001 would be released in April.