The downside of development is that for some a new road can be a pathway to
"HIV can be a consequence of mobility," said Oum Sopheap,
WorldVision's program manager for HIV/AIDS. WorldVision runs "Strategic Aids
Reduction" projects along Route 4 and Route 1 precisely because of the link
between mobility and HIV.
"If a community is isolated [the people there]
may have less chance of contracting HIV, but if those same people go to the city
to find work then they will have a higher than average HIV risk," says Sopheap,
who argues that information is the key.
"If people have low access to
information then they are much more vulnerable," he says.
been attempting to address that problem along Routes 1 and 2 for the past year.
The program concentrates on the heavily populated sections of the roads covering
the first 100 kilometers from Phnom Penh along Route 4 and the first 70
kilometers of Route 1.
Sopheap cites Route 4 as an example of what can
happen when infrastructure is improved and industries are established on
"Along Route 4 there are more than 20,000 garment
factory workers. Most of them are mobile, or at least most have originally come
from the provinces. Then there are military bases along there with around 10,000
personnel, so that's a high risk area," he says.
"Sometimes the garment
girls go from the factories to the entertainment industry as beer girls or in
brothels. They come from the provinces to find work but they never go home," he
"We provide information to people residing along the highway and we
provide HIV testing and counseling. We also take care of HIV positive people
with basic medication and give social and psychological services to their
families," Sopheap says of the program for addressing the causes and
consequences of HIV/AIDS.
New road construction also poses particular
challenges. Construction sites attract a large population of itinerant men, who
often live on site and, according to Sopheap, can introduce HIV to a previously
With the boom in national road construction, WorldVision
is looking to expand its programs along the new routes and introduce HIV/AIDS
components to other development programs running along Routes 2 and 3.
"HIV/AIDS goes across borders so we would like to join our programs with
WorldVision programs in Vietnam on Route 1 and Thailand along Route 5," says
Sopheap. "HIV prevention programs should always be a precondition [of road
construction]. Everyone needs to look at it that way."