Curb HIV Infections, Especially Among MSM, Experts Say

A Cambodian health official checks a blood sample from a villager during a screening for HIV in Kandal province on February 22, 2016. Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

PHNOM PENH – More education on prevention and protection of HIV/AIDS is needed among the key populations, especially men who have sex with men (MSM) as the group is responsible for nearly half of the new cases, experts say.

They say treatment is provided for people living with HIV and testing is available for anyone suspicious about their status.

To make it more convenient for them to open up, the experts call for elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, especially affecting the key populations.

One reason for the high MSM numbers was that they thought having sex with people of the same sex might not get them infected, said Choub Sok Chamreun, executive director of KHANA Cambodia, an NGO working on HIV.

New MSM cases were mostly among those aged 15 to 24, who had poor knowledge of HIV and AIDS, he said.

Seum Sophal, program manager at the Cambodian People living with HIV Network, said some of them misunderstood that having sex with their partner of the same sex without protection might not put them at risk. 

Support and non-discrimination was needed to encourage MSM — the population most vulnerable to HIV infection — to receive education, consultation, testing and timely treatment in positive cases.

Support is an effective medicine for them to receive HIV and AIDS preventive care services, including condoms, self-tests and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), Chamroeun said.

On June 27 during a meeting with nearly 20,000 workers in Kampong Speu province, the Prime Minister said, “Please be informed that AIDS is not over yet in Cambodia.”

The Prime Minister said new cases were mostly among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, the number is not as much in the case of women.  

According to the National Center For HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs report, there were 1,400 new cases in 2022, 300 more than in 2021. About 83% were in the high-risk population and their sex partners. Of the latter figure, 40% were among men who have sex with men.

PM Hun Sen said there was no prohibition on same-sex relationships but there was no law on same-sex marriage either.

The country did not discriminate against their relationships and the Prime Minister called on them to help prevent and protect themselves from HIV infection.

People should consider prevention methods when choosing their partner, because there are medicines to cure COVID-19 but medicines cannot fully cure AIDS, he said.

People unsure of their status can ask for existing services accessing for their healthcare and there should be no discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.  

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