Cambodia drums up multi-level efforts to combat AIDS
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton in Phnom Penh on Monday praised Cambodia as one of the most successful countries in dealing with the menace of AIDS, a heartfelt recognition of the kingdom’s long-term and multi-level efforts to combat the disease, whose infection rate has been brought down from 3.3 percent in 1997 to the current 1.9 percent.
“We have a hope that Cambodia can be a model for the rest of Asia and perhaps for the rest of the world (for fighting against AIDS),” said Clinton, after signing a memorandum of understanding with Prime Minister Hun Sen for the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) to offer support to the Cambodian government to expand pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment in the kingdom.
Clinton’s well-wished remarks topped the kingdom’s recent string of activities to promote the anti-AIDS campaign.
While marking the World AIDS Day here on Friday, First Lady and Red Cross Chairwoman Bun Rany revealed that the kingdom was optimistic to hold its AIDS infection rate at 1.5 percent in 2015, as the campaign continued to bear fruits at various levels.
However, she noted that the current infection rate of AIDS in Cambodia was still considerably high in comparison with other regional countries, as the disease had formed its patterns of transmitting from husband to wife, from wife to child and from one drug user to another.
On the same occasion, officials from the National AIDS Authority told reporters that the disease had been expanding to the rural areas of Cambodia, mainly victimizing housewives and children.
Authority figures showed that five housewives contracted the disease from their spouses on an average day, five babies from their mothers on daily basis, while 100,000 Cambodians had died of it so far.
Fortunately, the government had responded actively to the threat, as 136 hospitals nationwide were enabled to provide AIDS test, 40 to provide anti-AIDS drugs and 16,379 people with AIDS had been medicated, the figures said.
In addition, on the eve of the World AIDS Day, the U.S. Embassy hosted a banquet for 200 Cambodian minors infected with AIDS, where Ambassador Joseph A. Mussomeli said that “the credit for this stunning achievement in reducing the prevalence rate can be attributed to the remarkable dedication, professionalism and cooperation of the Cambodian government, NGOs and the international donor community.”
As the most recent example of the cooperation of the so-called donor community, the Clinton Foundation promised in its MoU to provide affordable anti-AIDS medicine at 60 U.S. dollars one person each year, and equipment for the Cambodian government to establish AIDS laboratory.
The foundation has so far provided drugs to over 1,500 Cambodian children who suffered from HIV/AIDS.
On Saturday, the National AIDS Authority, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and local NGO health organization jointly launched the kingdom’s first ever set of anti-AIDS stamps, in order to enhance the public awareness of the fatal disease.
“The stamps with the logo of the Number One condom show us that we have joined hands actively to start the campaign to prevent AIDS from expanding. They will educate the people to defend and prevent the transmission of AIDS,” said So Khun, Minister of Post and Telecommunications.
Promotion of condoms on stamps could be a good way to safeguard people’s awareness of safe sex in Cambodia, where the protection is widely adopted at brothels and more than two million condoms were sold each year, local papers reported.
In a sense, Cambodia’s “steadfast and consistent commitment” to combating AIDS was well recognized and accepted.
“For the last several years you have made progress over reducing the infection rate here as it has gone up in most of the rest world,” said Clinton here on Monday.
However, he also pressed that “there remains challenges that require us to do more.”
According to official reports, there are currently about 20,000 children under the age of 15 living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, out of a total of 123,000 Cambodians who are either infected with the virus, or have contracted the full-blown disease.
To make things better, Clinton’s visit raised more confidence for the Khmer people to fight against the epidemic.
“Your presence in Cambodia indeed provides a psychological effect that can prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as prevent discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS,” said Hun Sen in the presence of Clinton.