While the costs of HIV/AIDS continue to hamper developing countries, Cambodian officials announced on World AIDS Day yesterday that the Kingdom is making significant headway in reducing mother-to-child transmissions.
The national mother-to-child transmission rate now sits at two per cent, which far exceeds the national target of less than five per cent before 2015.
“[T]his year’s outstanding achievement is the growing rate of pregnant women using services to reduce transmission of HIV from mother to child and the growing rate of HIV-carrying pregnant women receiving treatment to prevent transmission,” National AIDS Authority chairman Ieng Mouly said at an event in Phnom Penh.
This year, Cambodia has moved closer to its goal of eliminating all new HIV infections by 2020. The rate of HIV/AIDS infections has declined to 0.7 per cent, down from three per cent in 1997-1998, figures from the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs show.
Infection rates in the Kingdom are still the second-highest in Asia, however, just behind Thailand (1.1 per cent).
But Mouly said Cambodia remains committed to the elimination of new infections, discrimination and AIDS-related deaths, which will require an estimated $58 million a year over the next seven years.
An “early prevention” approach to combating the disease since the early 1990s partly explains achievements in reducing transmission rates, according to UNAIDS country director Marie-Odile Emond.
“Compared to other countries, treatment coverage is proportionally much higher, and we now know from other scientific studies that people living with HIV who are on treatment have 96 per cent less risk of transmitting the virus,” she said, adding that maintaining funding was key in achieving the 2020 goal.
Officials also recognise accessing high-risk populations remains paramount.
“[T]o reach our goal, we have to identify the most at-risk populations,” Oum Sopheap, executive director at Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance, said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THIK KALIYANN