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Cambodia Risks Losing Funding, Gains Against HIV: Doctors

HIV affected Cambodians sit outside their houses at Tuol Sambo village in Phnom Penh.
HIV affected Cambodians sit outside their houses at Tuol Sambo village in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian and US health officials are asking the government to budget more money for HIV and AIDS, fearing that donor fatigue will erode gains the country has made in fighting the disease.

Cambodia currently spends around $50 million per year for its HIV and AIDS programs, with about 90 percent funded by donors.

However, donors tend to reduce spending on such programs over the long haul, and Cambodia needs to actually increase its spending, to about $68 million a year through 2031, to continue its progress against the disease.

Health officials said at the conference that donors tend to reduce assistance for HIV and AIDS programs over time. For example, the UK’s Agency for International Development will close its representative office in Cambodia in 2011 and stip funding health programs here in 2013.

Richard Snolnick, a doctor and professor at George Washington University, said the global economic crisis could also reduce funding for health programs. “The government of Cambodia and its development partners need to work together to carefully develop a financing plan, so that if the development partners begin to withdraw, the government can begin to substitute its own money.”

Cambodia has earned praise for the drop in its HIV and AIDS rates, but that could change if funding dries up, he said.

Cambodia has around 60,000 HIV and AIDS cases, representing a significant drop from the 1990s.

Long-term funding should now focus on intervention and prevention of target groups, “like young people, [men who have sex with men], drug users and migrants,” said Ho Naun, a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and head of a government health commission.