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

  • Restrictions re-imposed in capital as Covid cases surge

    Amid the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has shown no sign of subsiding with 750 infections and 10 deaths reported on June 2 alone, the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has decided to re-impose the suspension of all occupations and business activities deemed as posing high risk of

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway 51% complete

    The construction of the nearly $2 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway is 51.35 per cent complete and is expected to be finished in 2023, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of state Vasim Sorya. Invested in by Cambodian PPSHV Expressway Co Ltd, the first expressway in

  • With herd immunity likely in 2022, is Cambodia ready to reopen for tourism?

    The government aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the target population by June next year, giving it a head start among regional peers to reboot the sector but first, it has to do a few things to up its game A sign on a glass

  • First 7-Eleven store to open mid-June, ambassador says

    Thai retail conglomerate CP All Pcl will open Cambodia’s first 7-Eleven convenience store in mid-June, Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn told The Post on June 1. The Bangkok-listed 7-Eleven franchise operator, the retail arm of Charoen Pokphand Group Co Ltd, granted CP All (Cambodia)

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • US embassy guard gets Covid despite two doses of Pfizer jab

    The Covid-19 tracking commission on June 4 said a security guard at the US embassy in Phnom Penh had contracted the novel coronavirus, despite having received a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot two weeks ago. Embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier confirmed the SARS-CoV-2 infection to The