Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HIV rates among MSM stubbornly high: study

HIV rates among MSM stubbornly high: study

A Cambodian doctor (right) offers antiretroviral drugs to a man who is living with HIV at Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in 2012. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP
A Cambodian doctor (right) offers antiretroviral drugs to a man who is living with HIV at Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in 2012. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

HIV rates among MSM stubbornly high: study

The HIV infection rate among the men who have sex with men (MSM) population has increased over the past six years, according to a new study, which estimates Cambodia’s total MSM population is 50 percent higher than previous counts.

Published late last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology and Infectious Disease, the study embarked upon the most comprehensive study of Cambodia’s MSM community to date, spanning 11 provinces and Phnom Penh. Its authors found that the infection rate has increased from 2.1 percent in 2010 to 2.3 percent today, nearly four times Cambodia’s overall prevalence rate of 0.6 percent.

UNAIDS country director Marie-Odile Emond acknowledged in emailed comments that the rate had gone up, but noted that infection rates among MSM communities in many other cities in the region are far higher. “While it remains too high and obviously we have not managed to bring it further down, this remains relatively low,” she wrote.

The study estimates Cambodia’s MSM population at 31,000, up from a 2008 estimate of 21,300. The study’s lead author Dr Siyan Yi attributed the jump to improved methodology, while Emond said that only 65 percent of those men were either reachable or not at risk of infection.

Yi said more needed to be done to educate those 31,000 men on safe practices such as condom use – less than 70 percent of respondents to the study reported having always used a condom while having sex in the previous month.

UNAIDS’s Emond agreed that while prevention strategies have shown successes in Cambodia, efforts needed to be increased.

“Prevention has been a good investment and certainly paid off,” she wrote. “This clearly needs to be sustained . . . to reach MSM groups who may not be reached by messages or might relax their safe behaviour.”

Both Emond and Yi said that stigmatisation of MSM by health-care providers is an impediment to prevention strategies. “This can be a barrier to health care and HIV education,” Yi said.

Their comments were echoed by the founder of the human rights NGO CamASEAN, Srorn Srun, who has worked with MSM in all 25 provinces. He said yesterday that discrimination is rife among health-care providers.

“Health-care providers always ask, ‘How do you have sex with men?’ rather than trying to treat them,” Srun said. “They are destroying the privacy of MSM.”

Health Ministry officials did not respond to requests for comment.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the