Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Study charts AIDS progress

Study charts AIDS progress

A Cambodian doctor offers antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to a woman who is living with HIV at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh in 2012.
A Cambodian doctor offers antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to a woman who is living with HIV at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh in 2012. AFP

Study charts AIDS progress

Cambodia's decline in HIV/AIDS mortalities has made it a regional anomaly, according to a new study published today by a global health research centre at the University of Washington.

While HIV/AIDS remains a leading cause of disease burden in Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and mortality rates have been increasing in Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam, deaths have dropped in Cambodia to record lows.

“The news is mainly good for Cambodia, where HIV/AIDS mortality has decreased by 86% since peak mortality rate in 2003. Although the disease is responsible for 1.5 percent of deaths and 1.6 percent of disease burden, HIV/AIDS currently ranks as the 16th leading cause of disease burden in Cambodia,” the report, published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, says.

In order to capture the disease burden attributable to HIV/AIDS, the study, titled The Burden of HIV: Insights from the GBD 2010, used a metric that captures years of life lost to premature death and years lived with disability.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Cambodia is concentrated, meaning it primarily affects intravenous drug users (IDU), men who have sex with men, and sex workers,” researcher and lead study author Katrina Ortblad told the Post.

While the report’s news is good, HIV has disproportional effects on certain age groups, cautioned Ortlblad. For example, mother-to-child transmission rates may have significantly declined, but HIV/AIDS remains the fourth-leading cause of health loss for the 25-29 and 30-35 age groups.

However, targeting high-risk populations like “entertainment workers” becomes politically complicated when individuals are working illegally, said Mey Sovannara, communications and advocacy coordinator at the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO alliance (KHANA).

“The law is not exactly forgiving on this point,” he said.

Similarly, high rates of HIV/AIDS remain prevalent among intravenous drug users, UNAIDS country coordinator Marie-Odile Emond said, adding that one in four drug users who inject has HIV/AIDS.

“We’re still reaching a low number of drug users and entertainment workers, as well as access to the gay male population, who remain quite hidden because of public stigmatisation,” she said, noting the difficulties of disseminating preventative supplies like clean syringes or contraceptives.

Sin Somuny, executive director of health NGO Medicam, pointed to the involvement of local NGOs in implementing government policy as a key reason for Cambodia’s success.

“In the fight against HIV/AIDS, interventions have been undertaken beyond the health system,” Sin Somuny said.

Despite Cambodia’s relative success compared to others in the region, it needs to maintain momentum in tackling the disease burden of HIV/AIDS, Ortblad said.

“Prevention and other effective interventions must be vigilantly maintained; complacency is not an option.”

The declining prevalence of HIV/AIDS is expected to continue, said Mean Chhi Vun, the director of the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs.

Already, he pointed out, “newly infected HIV patients went from 100 [per day] in 1998 to three per day [now]”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a