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HIV battle still flares

An HIV-positive family sits outside their home in Tuol Sambo village, a community for people living with HIV, last year
An HIV-positive family sits outside their home in Tuol Sambo village, a community for people living with HIV, last year. HENG CHIVOAN

HIV battle still flares

Despite massive reductions in HIV infection rates over the past two decades, HIV-positive Cambodians continue to face a wide array of non-medical challenges, a report released yesterday says.

Written by NGOs, aid agencies and the government, the report says that vulnerable groups, including those who are “stigmatized, marginalised and discriminated against and thus [facing] additional socioeconomic challenges”, are in need of support.

Marie-Odile Emond, UNAIDS country coordinator, included transgendered Cambodians as among high-risk groups requiring increased attention in the nation’s battle against the disease, during opening remarks at the launch yesterday morning.

“While national HIV prevalence has dropped to 0.7 per cent, increased attention is needed among entertainment workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and transgender Cambodians with HIV/AIDS,” she said.

Cambodia’s small and primarily urban community of more than 1,500 transgendered HIV sufferers, meanwhile, face serious social stigma even among the HIV/AIDS community.

Living as a transgender Cambodian with HIV/AIDs is an existence that could easily be solely defined by social marginalisation, according to Srorn Srun, facilitator for LGBT advocacy group Rainbow Community Kampuchea.

“In June, two HIV-positive transgender Cambodians were arrested for ‘public disorder’ by commune safety police, but they didn’t tell police they were positive, because they were worried police would not keep their status private,” Srun said in an email yesterday.

Transgendered Cambodians are doubly exposed to social stigmatisation if they are HIV-positive, Srun said, emphasising the importance of Cambodia’s adoption of HIV-sensitive social protection.

Cambodia’s reliance on foreign aid to mitigate the spread of HIV was also a theme in the opening remarks made by Dr Kao Try, vice-chair of the National AIDS Authority, who said without the funding provided by the Global Fund, progress could spiral backwards unless more sustainable solutions are explored.

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