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Plan to test garment factory workers' blood

Plan to test garment factory workers' blood

Garment factory workers will be blood-tested for the HIV/AIDS virus in a

government project starting in July.

The project will be run by the

research committee of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD of

the Ministry of Health.

Saphonn Vonthanak, chief of the research unit,

said the concern is that garment factory workers are a mobile group, with most

of them coming from countryside.

The garment workers' blood research now

is just a recommendation following research from 1995-2002, but it's going to be

organized as a research agenda by June, working with national and international

NGOs, UN agencies and others related to the HIV/AIDS program, Vonthanak

said.

The study research from 1995 to 2002 focused on direct and indirect

female sex workers, police and pregnant women.

The preliminary report of

research throughout twenty provinces/cities from 1995 to 2002 showed that 28.8

per cent of 2,109 direct female sex workers, 14.8 per cent of 1,231 indirect

female sex workers, 3.1 per cent of 4,375 police and 2.8 per cent of 9,166

pregnant women have HIV/AIDS.

In the general population, 2.6 per cent,

about 170,000 people, are living with HIV/AIDS; 20 or more people are infected

each day, according to the report of National Aids Authority.

Chuon

Momthol, President of Cambodian Union Federation, said his union had an

education program raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, that

was sponsored by APHEDA from 2000 to 2003.

Currently the International

Labor Organization has sponsored his union to continue educating workers about

HIV/AIDS, but so far there has been no national or international NGO testing

workers' blood, Momthol said.

He said there was resistance among workers

to blood-tests for HIV. They were disinclined to allow an NGO to test them if

they were not in pain and showed no symptoms of HIV/AIDS, because they would

have in mind a Khmer proverb that "If the wound is not painful, don't take the

splinter of wood and touch it."

Momthol said that among more than 70,000

workers in his union, he knows of less than one per cent having HIV/AIDS,

because most workers having HIV/AIDS were very shy to tell him. "After a

worker's death, we get the information from their friends that they died because

of HIV/AIDS," Momthol said.

Sam Srey Mom, Acting President for the Free

Trade Union of Workers, said it the project was good if workers were willing to

have their blood tested, but if they were not willing, the research committee

could not force them. "We have laws to protect workers' rights."

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