Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Questions in wake of new HIV report stats

Questions in wake of new HIV report stats

Villagers in Battambang's Roka commune gather to receive HIV testing following an outbreak of the virus in 2014.
Villagers in Battambang's Roka commune gather to receive HIV testing following an outbreak of the virus in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Questions in wake of new HIV report stats

Agencies involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Cambodia have expressed doubts about the conclusions reached in a new report that claims the Kingdom has the highest rate of new HIV cases in Asia – a statistic inconsistent with previously published data.

The report – generated by researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington – was published in the UK’s Lancet medical journal on Tuesday. From 2005 to 2015, the number of people living with HIV went from 54,880 to 82,970, the report found.

Researchers claim the rate of new HIV infections grew by an average of 6.6 per cent every year during the same period.

But Dr Ying-Ru Jacqueline Lo, coordinator of the HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Unit at the WHO’s Western Pacific regional office, said that while the methodology used wasn’t clear enough to dismiss the report out of hand, the data didn’t appear consistent with what has been published by WHO and UNAIDS, which is “truly vetted”.

“Cambodia is one of the few countries in the region that has reversed HIV trends,” she said.

The report’s authors culled data from various sources, including comprehensive vital registration systems, something Cambodia lacks. In order “to more accurately represent the epidemic” in the country, for instance, a mortality profile from Thailand was used and adjusted to Cambodia, according to supplemental study documents.

Lo said Cambodia should be on track to eliminate new HIV infections by 2030. “We are going to have to have a discussion with the [researchers],” she said.

Based on the latest figures, there were an estimated 72,000 people living with HIV in the country.

UNAIDS Cambodia representative Marie-Odile Emond in an email said her agency was “looking at the methodology and estimates used” in the report. In 2015, the estimated number of new HIV infections was less than 1,000, she said. By the end of 2015, about 75 per cent of people living with HIV were receiving treatment.

“The data is from the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs and estimates are endorsed by them,” she wrote.

The centre’s director, Dr Ly Penh Sun, couldn’t be reached, this week while Ministry of Health spokesman Ly Sovann declined to comment.

Seth Faison, spokesman for the Global Fund, which supports HIV programs in the country, said they were “studying this report, which is serious and carries broad implications”.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro