A Change of Guard

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Friday, 3 June 2016

HIV rates falling in Kingdom: UNAIDS

A medical worker calls out the names on HIV tests in Battambang province’s Sangke district in 2014.
A medical worker calls out the names on HIV tests in Battambang province’s Sangke district in 2014. Heng Chivoan

HIV rates falling in Kingdom: UNAIDS
Thu, 2 June 2016 ppp
Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

The UNAIDS 2016 global update report, released on Tuesday, is evidence of Cambodia’s continued success in combatting HIV/AIDS, the agency’s country representative said yesterday, although leaders in the field said the success hinges on continued support.

In an email yesterday, UNAIDS Cambodia representative Marie-Odile Emond said that by the latest count, which was submitted as part of the global report, there are an estimated 72,000 people that are HIV positive, of which 75 per cent have access to treatment.

“Treatment coverage is among the highest in the region . . . it is also among the highest treatment coverage for a low income country,” she wrote.

“Cambodia remains in the top league of countries with a successful AIDS response and continues year by year to make steady progress in reducing new HIV infections and expanding access to HIV treatment with progressive policies and good practice.”

The disease “is now concentrated among key populations” who are at greater risk, she added.

According to the Dr Laurent Ferrandini, of the World Health Organization in Cambodia, the figures are encouraging and show the success of the HIV National Program.

However, “they also show that 10,000 to 15,000 HIV-infected people still remain unaware of their HIV status and have not yet accessed the widely available and efficient HIV treatment”, he said in a statement.

And while the government plans to improve access, “Health care practitioners should more often propose HIV testing in case of symptoms or history of risk behavior,” he wrote.

Despite the successes, however, new infection rates still hover at about 1,000 per year, said Choub Sok Chamreun, director of the health NGO KHANA, and to bring it down to the target of 300, better detection is needed.

“Three cases per day is not a success,” he said.

What’s more, Sok Chamreun added, with donors decreasing funding and transitioning responsibility to the government, there is a risk of an increase in infections.

“The handover needs to be done effectively,” he said, noting that government needs to increase its funding. Decreases in funding since October 2015, he continued, have meant that “some services are not comprehensive as before”.

Dr Ly Penh Sun, director of the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDS (NCHADS), on the phone yesterday said the “funding gap is quite difficult to quantify”, but assured that for the time being money is “sufficient” in covering most services.

He said that the government has committed to increasing their share of the financial load, but “we don’t know by how much yet”.

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