Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sex workers help control spread of HIV/AIDS

Sex workers help control spread of HIV/AIDS

Sex workers help control spread of HIV/AIDS

As the National Assembly debated the HIV/AIDS law last week, the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO

Alliance (KHANA) kicked off a $2.7 million prevention program focused on educating

and mobilizing sex workers.

The four-year initiative covers target areas identified as high risk: Battambang,

Kampong Cham, Pailin and Sihanoukville.

It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the International HIV/AIDS

Alliance, whose senior program officer, Cheryl Overs, visited Cambodia at the end

of May to oversee the program.

"There's ample evidence that if HIV can be contained at low rates among sex

workers, that will have a major impact in slowing the epidemic, especially in Cambodia

where such a large percentage of the male population pays for sex," said Overs.

An estimated 168,000 or 2.8 percent of the country's adult population aged 15-49

are HIV- positive, the highest rate in Asia. Figures from the National Center for

HIV/AIDS in 2000 showed that 19.4 percent of men in urban areas and 10.9 percent

in rural areas had sex with a direct sex worker within the previous year.

The center's figures also revealed that HIV prevalence was 31 percent among direct

sex workers and 16 percent among indirect sex workers including beer girls, karaoke

and massage girls.

KHANA's program targets sex workers and other population groups key to the epidemic.

That includes people living with AIDS, homosexual men, and intravenous drug users.

The executive director of KHANA, Pok Panhavichetr, said her organization had just

begun a new collaborative approach.

"It is very exciting as for the first time there will be real integration through

targeting key populations simultaneously in each area and helping create and strengthen

sex worker collectives," she said.

The program will provide a range of services including home care, support for community

development, improved access to condoms and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

It will also look at empowering sex workers by forming workers' collectives.

One organization involved in sex worker empowerment is Oxfam's Womyn's Agenda for

Change. Director Rosanna Barbero said much HIV/AIDS prevention was run on rigid medical

models that were not effective. Consequently the only way to minimize HIV infection

was to empower sex workers.

"Often HIV programs think that if they teach a sex worker how to put a condom

on to a wooden penis, then she has the power to negotiate condom use with clients,"

Barbero said. "This ignores the fact that sex workers are powerless and are

faced with exploitation and abuse every day. Only when that changes can women take

responsibility for safe sex practices."

KHANA's project is part of a $25 million 'frontier' initiative in four countries.

The others are Madagascar, India and Ecuador.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol

  • Ministry to 'seek justice' for officials indicted in US for 'monkey smuggling'

    The Cambodian government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said they will make the “utmost effort” to seek justice for a Cambodian official arrested in John F Kennedy International Airport in New York for allegedly conspiring to smuggle crab-eating macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis)

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,