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Combating HIV/AIDS remains government priority

Sar Socheath / Khmer Times Share:
People in a village in Cambodia’s Battambang province getting screened for HIV. AFP

The Cambodian government has reaffirmed its commitment to combatting HIV/AIDS in light of today being World AIDS Day.

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Prime Minister Hun Sen made a statement to mark the event and to cooperate with the global campaign against HIV/AIDS under the theme: “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.

According to the Prime Minister’s statement, signed on Wednesday, the government still considers HIV/AIDS as a high priority because it is a threat to public health, people’s lives and social and economic development.

“The royal government will continue to take all action possible to achieve its goals,” he said.

The National AIDS Authority has claimed that Cambodia’s goal is to have no more than one new HIV infection per day and no more than three deaths per day from this disease.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, set the “90-90-90” target that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Cambodia has so far met the 90-90-90 target and is on track to achieve a 95-95-95 target, but Mr Hun Sen said to not be too proud of this too soon.

“We mustn’t forget and be satisfied with our achievements because, since the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, the world has not yet found a vaccine or medicine to cure AIDS,” he added.

Mr Hun Sen said that there are about 12,000 people living with HIV who have not yet returned for follow-up blood tests to verify their HIV status, and some AIDS patients have decided to give up their respective treatment. Some groups, including female entertainment workers, drug addicts, men who have sex with men and transgender people are still vulnerable to infection.

On Friday last week, the National AIDS Authority released its 2019 report stating a total of 1,300 people died from the disease in Cambodia last year.

According to the report, a total of 73,000 people were living with HIV in Cambodia last year and 61,193 had antiretroviral therapy.

The prevalence rate for people between the ages of 15 and 49 is 0.5 percent and there were 780 new cases in this age group last year, it said.

The HIV prevalence among female entertainment workers was at 3.2 percent, people who use drugs at 5.7 percent, people who injected drugs at 15.2 percent, men who have sex with men at four percent and transgender people at 9.6 percent, the report said.

The National AIDS Authority’s secretary-general Chhim Khim Dareth told Khmer Times that Cambodia is on a positive trajectory against HIV/AIDS, but there is still work to do.

World AIDS Day was first held in 1988. Each year, organisations and individuals across the world bring attention to the HIV epidemic, endeavor to increase HIV awareness and knowledge, speak out against HIV stigma and call for an increased response to move toward ending the HIV epidemic.

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