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HIV+ groups protest exclusion from Aids national conference

HIV+ groups protest exclusion from Aids national conference

Govt claims lack of HIV+ individuals in planning stage is not an

oversight and that they will be represented; activist groups cry foul

THIRTY organisations with a collective

membership of more than 2,000 people working on HIV/Aids issues have

said that they are being unfairly excluded from the Kingdom's third

annual national Aids conference, scheduled Wednesday through Friday.

"We want HIV-positive people to be allowed to join the conference

organising commission. HIV-positive people are not represented in this

commission. We want to participate, not just listen," said Heng

Sambath, coordinator for the Cambodian Alliance for Combating HIV/Aids


CACHA is representing the excluded groups, along with the Cambodian

Community of Women living with HIV/Aids (CCW), Positive Women of Hope

Organisation (PWHO) and the Women Network for Unity (WNU).

Counter to the law


absence of HIV/Aids positive people in the conference runs counter to

the law issued by the National Aids Authority that states that

HIV-positive people must participate in all sections of the response to

the epidemic, the groups say.

The organisations have also said that their absence is in direct

contradiction to Article 2 of Cambodia's Aids Law, which prohibits

discrimination against people infected with HIV/Aids.

"This national conference will not discuss the true interests of HIV-positive people," said a joint statement.

Many Dy, program officer of Actionaid, which is a signatory to the

statement, appealed to the government not to forget people living with



I don't say that this is discrimination [but] the government forgot ... about us.

"I don't say that this is discrimination, [but] the government ... forgot to think about us."

CACHA's Heng Sambath drew attention to the exclusion of HIV-positive individuals.

"In Cambodia, there are currently 170 organizations working on

AIDS, with some 25,693 people working as volunteers and 3,576 people

working on staff. Among these, only 346 HIV-positive people work as

volunteers and only 190 HIV-positive people work as staff," he said.

Teng Kunthy, secretary general of the National Aids Authority, said

that while the conference will not address policies or legislation

dealing with Cambodia's response to HIV/Aids, organisations have an

opportunity to share experiences.

"Even though there are no HIV

positive people on the organising commission, representatives of

organisations are also representatives of HIV-positive people," Teng

Kunthy told the Post.