WASHINGTON DC - More than 20,000 health officials and activists from around the world have been meeting in Washington for an international HIV and AIDS conference, including Cambodian officials who want to share their experience fighting the disease.
Mean Chhivun, chairman of Cambodia’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, said Cambodia still needs to provide better access to treatment and prevention services, while people need to advise their sexual partners of their activities and encourage blood tests.
“These are the two main points,” he told VOA Khmer. “We have to do more.”
Cambodia has pulled its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate down to 0.8 percent and provided treatment to more than 46,000 patients so far. But problems remain for it and many other countries in finding help for victims of the disease.
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“Shame and stigma prevent them from getting help, from getting treatment, from protecting themselves in the first place,” singer Elton John, a key speaker, told the conference on Monday. “I felt that shame before. It almost killed me. It’s killing people all around the world right now. We have to stop it. We have to replace shame with love. We have to replace stigma with compassion. No one should be left behind.”
The US has pledged $150 million to support poor nations in their fight against HIV/AIDS amid concern that funding will be decreasing in today’s economic climate.
Mean Chhivun said that if Cambodia is to continue to receive funding, it must continue to find new approaches.
“If we keep doing the same thing, I think that donors will not support us,” he said. “But if we know the real infection situation and have a strategy to prevent it, donors will still support us.”
Cambodia has now set its sights on stopping transmission from mother to child, halting new infections and putting in place more treatments as preventative measures.