Cambodia Makes Surprising Progess in Fighting HIV/AIDS: Some *Good* News

Image ganked from these guys:

Cambodia has made surprisingly decent progress in fighting HIV/AIDS, and it’s worth noting a piece of good news out of a country that tends to attract the most dire sort of press coverage. (Present company pleads guilty).

In a UNDP report released for World Aids Day that appeared in my inbox this morning detailing the incredibly damaging effects of HIV and AIDS on household spending in Asia, Cambodia stood out as the one bright spot.

Although HIV-affected households spend three times more on healthcare than unaffected households in India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, that’s not the case in Cambodia: here, anti-retroviral treatment is essentially covered in full by the government.

Furthermore, the UNDP noted that women with AIDS and HIV are less discriminated against when it comes to getting both adequate hospital care and access to drugs than they are elsewhere in Asia.

This, I think, may be part of the pay-off for Cambodia’s war against HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among those aged 15-49 dropped to 0.8 percent in 2010, from 0.9 percent in 2008 and a disturbing 2.5 percent in 1998. The Cambodian National Aids Authority hopes to drop that rate to 0.5 percent by 2015, and to zero by 2025.

There’s more: according to Teng Kunthy, secretary General of the National Aids Authority, 80 percent of pregnant women get their blood tested for HIV/AIDS, as opposed to 30 percent only three years ago. Currently, the mother to child infection rate stands at 8 percent – this massive increase in blood testing is expected to drop the rate to 5 percent by 2015, and completely eradicate such infections by 2020. This seem optimistic, but I’ll let it stand.

HIV/AIDS in Cambodia is not all puppies and roses, of course. According to the National Aids Authority, Cambodia has an estimated 67,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and 6,000 of these sufferers are children. 2,500 died from HIV/AIDS in 2011, and 2,780 died in 2010 However, the Aids Authority believes 96% of these sufferers have received anti-retroviral medications.

Unfortunately, the National Aids Authority faces serious budget shortfalls. “We have a 50 percent budget shortfall annually” said Mr Kunthy in the Xinhua piece, who added that only about half of the $58 million needed for the 2011 to 2015 budget—collected from international donors—has been secured.

“With the shortage, we have to narrow our activities and just give the focus mainly on the most vulnerable groups,” Mr Kunthy told Xinhua. What a shame.

Hun Sen made a World Aid’s Day statement, which you can read if you can read Khmer. And I can’t. Someone should be a pal and translate it.