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International News

Cambodia: Falling HIV Rate Offers Little Hope in AIDS Epidemic

September 19, 2002

The percentage of Cambodian adults infected with HIV fell again this year, but AIDS deaths have risen dramatically since 2000, new figures show. Officials fear the impoverished country has yet to see the worst of the epidemic.

AIDS deaths increased by about 18,000 in the past two years to about 78,600, a government survey says, while the number of AIDS cases went from 74,808 to 93,738 in the same period. "The number of people dying is going to increase every year, and we are worried that if we do not have medicine to prolong the life of the sick they will all die within the next seven years," said Dr. Tia Phalla, secretary-general of Cambodia's National AIDS Authority.

Cambodia is ill prepared to deal with its AIDS orphans, who will number about 110,000 by 2010, Tia said. A booming sex industry, coupled with widespread ignorance about HIV transmission, has made Cambodia the country hardest-hit in Southeast Asia. In 1998, HIV was found in almost 43 percent of brothel workers.

But Cambodia has also seen some success in battling HIV, becoming one of the few countries to reverse its infection rate. The number of adults living with HIV is about 160,000, in a country of about 12 million. The percentage of adults age 15 to 49 with HIV decreased from 3.3 percent in 1998 to 2.6 percent this year.

Intensive information and education campaigns have changed the behavior of those the authorities consider to be the most at risk -- typically police, soldiers and sex workers. HIV is now found in about 29 percent of Cambodia's sex workers, the government survey found. In 1990, nearly four-fifths of all HIV cases were transmitted between sex workers and their clients. That figure has dropped to about 15 percent of cases. But while fewer people are being infected with HIV outside the home, transmission rates between spouses have increased dramatically to about 45 percent of all HIV cases reported in 2000, according to government figures. Thirty percent of recent cases were transmitted between mother and child during pregnancy.

Back to other CDC news for September 19, 2002

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Adapted from:
South China Morning Post
09.12.02; Seth Meixner; Khieu Kola

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Cambodia and HIV/AIDS