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.