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HIV/AIDS incidence drops dramatically

HIV/AIDS incidence drops dramatically

Cambodia's HIV/AIDS incidence has dropped dramatically and health agencies claim their public education campaign is winning the battle against the disease.

Cambodia's officially surveyed HIV/AIDS incidence has dropped from 2.6 percent to 2 percent of the general population because of increasing public awareness, says the Ministry of Health.

The provisional reduction for the 2003 year will be reported in the annual report of the National Center for HIV/AIDS , Dermatology and STD (NCHADS) at the end of November, said Mean Chhivun, director of the center. The draft report is awaiting evaluation by international experts.

Chhivun said the 2002 incidence was 2.6 percent, reportedly the highest in Southeast Asia; the 2003 figure had provisionally dropped to 2.0 percent.

The Post was told by a medical source, on condition of anonymity, that the 2002 figure was high because of miscalculations inside NCHADS and the 2003 figure would show a major reduction. Chhivun denied this.

Chhivun said the figures were calculated with the assistance of experts from the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the University of California and the University of New South Wales, Australia.

"Everyone has the right [to challenge]," Chhivun said. "But the provisional figure was not decided by NCHADS alone.

"We cannot make up the figures," Tea Phalla, Secretary General of the National AIDS Authority, said. "In 2002, we tested blood from about 20,000 people throughout the country, observed condom use and other behaviors and then calculated the statistics with participation of international experts before the incidence was publicly announced."

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