Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mobile phones could be anti-HIV tool: study

Mobile phones could be anti-HIV tool: study

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Entertainment workers surf their phones while waiting for customers in Phnom Penh. A recent study reveals that cell phone alerts could help promote healthy behaviour among female entertainment workers. Heng Chivoan

Mobile phones could be anti-HIV tool: study

Mobile phone technology could be an effective means to promote improved health practices among Cambodia’s female entertainment workers and help curb the spread of HIV, according to a new study conducted by the organisation KHANA and the Center for Global Health Research at Touro University in California.

The ubiquity of mobile phones in Cambodia makes it increasingly easy for health-related texts and voice messages to reach at-risk populations, the study found. In 2015, the number of mobile phones in Cambodia exceeded the country’s population by about 6 million.

Fifty-one percent of the country’s female entertainment workers, a population identified as at risk of contracting HIV due to their frequent involvement in sex work, said they send text messages daily.

Almost all of the women surveyed, 98 percent, also said they feel comfortable receiving private, health-related messages despite the fact that many share their phones with others.

“While most participants did not have a passcode or lock, most report being somewhat comfortable to very comfortable with receiving health information in text messages on their phone,” the study found. “Most of the participants had positive remarks about potential health message interventions.”

According to Tia Phalla, deputy director of the National AIDS Authority, mobile phone messages have the potential to educate at-risk populations about ways to prevent HIV.

“We want to eliminate HIV by 2025, and we think mobile phones could be a part of that,” Phalla said.

A systematic review of text-messaging health projects published by the US National Library of Medicine found that the majority of text-message interventions have “statistically significant positive effects on health outcomes and/or behaviors”.

But not everyone was as optimistic about the potential of these interventions to work for Cambodia’s female entertainment workers.

Sar Mora, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, said he encountered little success when trying to use mobile technologies to rally female entertainment workers around labour issues.

“We tried to develop applications to let them report violations and problems at the workplace, but that didn’t work very well,” Mora said.

“I think one of the problems is literacy. A lot of entertainment workers cannot read and write, so they have trouble using the technology.”

The study acknowledges low literacy rates among entertainment workers, noting that voice messages may be preferable to text in many cases.

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Textile industry minimum wage now $200

    The official minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors including garment, footwear, and travel goods for 2023 was pegged at $198, with Prime Minister Hun Sen stepping in to add $2 to the total, making it $200 per month. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training made the announcement