The National AIDS Authority (NAA) is working with the Ministry of Planning to include families of people living with HIV in the social protection system.
National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS) deputy director Hor Bun Leng told The Post on December 7 that the Council of Ministers, in a letter dated February 21 last year, determined people living with HIV to be a vulnerable group. This entitles them to an equity card to ensure that they have access to healthcare and social protection.
“So far, about 20 per cent of the HIV-positive families have received the equity card, and we plan to complete the integration by 2023,” he said.
According to Bun Leng, 1,928 families with members who are HIV-positive have been registered with the social protection system – equivalent to one-fifth of the total 9,640 affected families. The government hopes 80 per cent of HIV-affected families will have received an equity card by the end of next year – with the rest included by 2023 at the latest.
“The benefit of the equity card is that they will receive free healthcare treatment and additional support services from the social affairs ministry. For example, they recently received a subsidy during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Keo Ouly, the planning ministry’s director of Identification of Poor Households, said it had been difficult to compile statistics for indigent HIV-positive households because many of them do not disclose their conditions or otherwise hide their identities. Officials struggle to identify and locate those families.
This year, according to Ouly, the NAA has added more than 1000 poor HIV-positive families from the provinces of Kampong Speu, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, Kep, Kratie, Koh Kong, Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Mondulkiri into the social protection system.
According to Bun Leng, the government has spent $11 million to supply patients with anti-HIV drugs over the next three years (2021-2023) and prevent infections among people with high risk. Official figures record 61,193 people receiving treatment.
According to NAA data for 2019, Cambodia had an estimated 73,000 people living with HIV, including 780 new infections, with about 1,300 deaths attributed to HIV/AIDS. Incidence of HIV among Cambodians aged 15-49 has dropped from 1.6 per cent in 1998 to just 0.5 per cent this year.
Bun Leng said, however, that certain demographics warranted special concern, with particularly high and upward-trending infection rates among men who have sex with men (four per cent in 2019) and intravenous drug users (15.2 per cent).