Cambodia has more than halved HIV prevalence and provided antiretroviral treatment to over 90% of those who need it. In 2006 the country’s adult HIV prevalence rate stood at 0.9% per cent, far below the 2015 MDG target of 1.8%.
This highly successful response has been built on real political commitment, incredible partnership and tolerance. Those involved have much to be proud of and to celebrate.
But the epidemic is changing and a ‘new effort’ built on the same principles is required to consolidate the gains and avoid a second wave of new infections.
Oum Sopheap, executive director of KHANA reports, “Policy decisions that reduce the vulnerability of injecting drug users, sex workers and their clients; sustained donor support to reach vulnerable groups and scaling up prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) interventions are important for us to focus on now.”
These issues were raised by a delegation comprising a UN High Level Mission, representatives of the Alliance Secretariat and Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA).
Dr Nafis Sadik, Alliance trustee, headed the delegation in meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen, First Lady Bun Rany and Deputy Prime Minister, Ke Kim Yan who leads the HIV response in the country.
The delegation praised the country’s achievements on tackling HIV and highlighted the need to build policy space for decisions that aren’t always going to be popular but critical if HIV gains are to be sustained in cost-effective ways.
Cambodian officials agreed that the country needs drug laws that support harm reduction approaches and substitution therapy, and that distinguish between drug traffickers and ‘victims who need to be educated and treated’.
The country’s leaders also agreed that good quality community models can achieve much better results than existing state run drug-rehabilitation centres which aren’t equipped to provide healthcare or psychological counselling.
The laws and measures that are driving sex workers underground and preventing successful condom policies were also raised during the talks.
“If we all keep our commitment and continue working in partnership we’ll keep new infections in check and over time reduce the cost of our response,” commented Sopheep.
This highly successful response has been built on real political commitment, incredible partnership and tolerance.