Civil society organisations and people living with AIDS have called on the government and generous people to continue providing aid to those affected by the virus.
The call came as the number of people who have died from AIDS, mostly related to the HIV outbreak in Battambang province’s Sangke district in 2014, reached 45 as of December this year.
The HIV outbreak in Roka commune was spread by Yem Chrin, an unlicensed medic who has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Eng Samnang, director of the Roka Referral Hospital, told The Post on December 13 that 325 people had received treatment at his hospital, including the 291 who contracted the virus in Sangke district in 2014. Most of the deaths were elderly people and people who already had physical illnesses.
“As director of the hospital in this area, I have always said that we mustn’t forget our brothers and sisters who are living with this disease,” he said.
Samnang said they are receiving good medical care, but many are encountering difficulties supporting their families because of their poor health.
“These people have experienced a general decline in health and vitality. As a result, their ability to cultivate their crops and earn income for their families has been seriously affected,” he said, emphasising that in cases where a primary breadwinner is HIV-positive, entire families’ livelihoods are impacted.
Samnang expressed his appreciation for generous donations by partner organisations and individuals providing assistance to those in need.
Chy Sar is a 50-year-old woman living in Roka who contracted HIV. She lives with one of her daughters and is unable to continue with farm work because her health is too poor. She said most of the nearly 300 people in the commune living with the virus are farmers, and some are elderly. She described the hardships faced by members of the community as they lose their strength and income.
“These HIV-positive people have very hard lives. They are elderly people, but they have no one they can depend on. For the elderly, even going to get treatment at a hospital can be extremely difficult,” she said.
Sar vowed that she would persevere in fighting the virus, and she called on the government and humanitarian organisations to continue to help her and others who are disabled with additional support.
Phorng Chanthorn, partnership and networking coordinator of the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA), said support for the AIDS victims in Roka commune was declining.
“Over the last four years, aid provision has dwindled, and meeting with the victims directly we have also observed that their livelihoods and occupations are deteriorating,” he said.
Chanthorn called for establishing a project to offer training for the victims in order to provide new skills and create opportunities for them to earn a better living.
According to the National AIDS Authority (NAA), 20 per cent of the 9,640 families with HIV-positive members throughout the country are registered with the social protection system.
Choub Sok Chamroeun, executive director of KHANA, said the inclusion of people living with AIDS into the social protection service is necessary to ensure that they receive the care they will need.
According to data from the National Centre for HIV/AIDS Dermatology and STDs (NCHADS), an estimated 73,000 people in Cambodia are HIV-positive and 61,193 are receiving anti-viral treatment. Last year, 780 new infections were recorded.
Sok Chamroeun said there has been a worrisome trend over the past three years of transmissions among men having sex with other men and with transgender people.