A large population of young people coupled with more youths moving away from home early for economic reasons, could lead to a resurgence of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has warned.
In a press release accompanying the launch of the Most at Risk Young People Survey 2010 yesterday, the ministry’s Inter-departmental Committee on AIDS and Drugs noted that “40 percent of all new HIV infections globally are reported to be among young people aged 15-24”.
“While Cambodia is experiencing relative success in preventing new HIV infections, with around 35 percent of Cambodia’s population aged between 10 and 24 years, a potential resurgence of the epidemic among most-at-risk-populations, particularly involving young people, is raising new concern.”
According to the report, which surveyed 2,490 respondents aged 10 to 24 and deemed to be among those “most at risk”, a “key problem faced by young people is the need for economic migration from family and community.
“This exposes young people to unsafe behaviour related to drug use, alcohol and unsafe sexual practices that can lead to HIV infection.”
Pen Saroeun, director of the School Health Department at the ministry, said officials were concerned that an increase in irresponsible behaviour such as “drinking and taking drugs” was placing teenagers at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
“At the present time, we all see our teenagers are careless. This makes us worry and we conducted the survey to find out the reasons,” he said.
Ulrike Gilbert-Nandra, HIV specialist for UNICEF, said by email that HIV prevention methods need to be “better tailored to meet the needs of young people, including adolescents under the age of 18 years”.
“The last surveys on HIV prevalence related to injecting drug use, sex work or male-to-male sex indicate that many of these populations are young,” she said.