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Senior official warns public of ‘forgotten’ scourge of HIV, AIDS

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A man distributes leaflets and condoms along the riverside in the capital’s Daun Penh district on Wednesday. Hong Menea

Senior official warns public of ‘forgotten’ scourge of HIV, AIDS

A senior National AIDS Authority (NAA) official warned that people seemed to have forgotten about the disease, and the virus that causes it, which he said are plaguing young people, especially men who have sex with men (MSM), to a worrying degree.

NAA deputy secretary-general Tea Phalla said HIV and AIDS have largely faded from the public’s mind with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phalla made the remarks at the 23rd National Elite Programme on World AIDS Day, held on December 1 with the theme of “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics”.

World AIDS Day is a reminder of the common global goal of eradicating AIDS and is aimed at renewing the commitment by the medical establishment to share new knowledge, skills and experiences to prevent the spread of HIV more effectively.

The day is also observed to show support and care for people living with AIDS and who are affected by AIDS and to promote access to a wider range of care and treatment services and social services for them.

“We see that members of the general public are busy with their normal routines and seemed to have forgotten about AIDS or think that it has gone away because only a small number of people still remember and take precautions against AIDS, while everyone feverishly protects themselves against Covid-19,” Phalla said.

He added that Cambodia has combated AIDS for about 30 years and the resources spent on the work totalled roughly $1 billion, but the fight was still far from over.

He continued that people infected with HIV had treatments available to them now that would extend their lives if they took good care of their health, but what worried him presently was the rate of transmission among Cambodia’s population of MSM, which was at minimum tens of thousands of people.

“That’s why we have to get them to come forward and receive treatment services like anti-HIV drugs. We have to try to help up to 10,000 people by 2023,” Phalla said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also sent out a message in observance of World AIDS Day.

“We all have to work harder to look for the 12,000 HIV-positive people who are unknown and who have yet to receive treatment and we must do more to prevent others from giving up on their treatment,” he said.

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