Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New study suggests Cambodia's condom program is broken

New study suggests Cambodia's condom program is broken

New study suggests Cambodia's condom program is broken

The 100 percent Condom-Use Program has not improved the rate of infectious diseases among sex workers in the Kingdom

DESPITE wide implementation of the government's 100 percent Condom-Use Program (CUP), from 2001 to 2005, the rate of sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers has remained constant, according to a recent study of more than 1,000 Cambodian sex workers.

The study, published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, found that female sex workers often switch between brothels and beer halls or karaoke bars, and vice versa. Non-brothel-based sex workers represent more than half of the sex worker population and are not "significantly covered ... by the 100 percent CUP".

This high turnover of sex workers in brothels "disrupts the continuity of the prevention program exposure", the study said.

Another hole in the condom plan is that, though 80 percent of sex workers claim to consistently use protection with clients, only 25 percent of sex workers use condoms with their sweethearts, making their nonpaying customers potential "reservoirs for re-infection".

Govt inconsistency

In addition, the study pointed to the contradictory attitudes of the government as another obstacle to the condom plan.

With some parts of the government endorsing programs to make sex work safe and others raiding brothels, it can make sex workers and brothel owners wary of government motives, the report claimed.

"Some brothel owners and female sex workers may be uncomfortable collaborating honestly and participating in the 100 percent CUP because of the involvement of local police," the paper said.

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