In preparation for World AIDS Day on December 1, the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) is conducting educational outreach under the theme “One Community Leads to Ending AIDS”. 

Men Neary Sopheak, CRC’s first deputy secretary-general, recently addressed 360 university students in Phnom Penh, emphasising that educational initiatives mark the first steps towards celebrating World AIDS Day and ultimately eradicating the disease.

“This outreach initiative plays a crucial role in educating individuals about women’s and children’s health, the wellbeing of the elderly, epidemics, including breast cancer, cervical cancer and particularly focusing on HIV, Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual health and primary healthcare,” she stated.

“The reason we chose young people for this outreach is because, like bamboo shoots, they represent the future bamboo. Young people are the successors, and the issue of HIV infection is more prevalent among them. Therefore, it’s crucial for young people to raise awareness to prevent HIV,” Neary Sopheak explained.

She expressed confidence that the knowledge provided to students is not only valuable but necessary, expecting young people to set proper examples for further educational outreach within their circles of friends.

Chhim Khin Dareth, secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority (NAA), praised the CRC and other stakeholders for their efforts in educating and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among students. 

“While we’ve achieved success in combating HIV/AIDS, there are still barriers, particularly among key population groups such as men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, drug users (both injecting and non-injecting), women working in entertainment venues, and young people,” noted Khin Dareth.

“Therefore, fostering HIV awareness is a significant concern for our youth. Our objective is to impart HIV education at all major national festivals where young people attend,” he said.

He added that CRC’s outreach, along with those of other institutions, aligns with the national goal of ending HIV/AIDS by 2025.

A recent NAA study revealed around 76,000 people living with HIV in Cambodia, with 74,000 being adults and about 2,000 children. The report noted four new HIV infections daily.