Cambodia: Cambodia Hosts Conference to Address HIV/AIDS (November 2008)

Cambodia hosted its third National AIDS Conference in September 2008 in Phnom Penh to discuss the status of HIV/AIDS in the country. This year's theme was "Greater Multi-Sectoral Response."

The conference, which was jointly supported by UN agencies, the Royal Government of Cambodia and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), drew over 700 attendees, including key players from the government, civil society and both the national and international partner community.

During the three-day event, attendees devised ways to increase the coordination among the various agencies and organizations, both Cambodian and international, that work on the front lines to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The conference featured panel discussions, exhibitions and strategy sessions, including presentations on the status of the epidemic and legal issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS, as well as opportunities for people involved with HIV/AIDS programs to acquaint themselves with varying approaches being used throughout the country.

During the keynote speech, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An praised America's support in Cambodia's fight against HIV/AIDS, especially thanking the U.S. for the $120 million in the last 15 years.

He also emphasized the connection between fighting the disease and the country's economic and social development. "To advance national development, we must have a healthy people," Sok An said.

Currently the nation's HIV prevalence rate is down from 2 percent in 1998 to less than 1 percent as of 2007.

Although Cambodia has made great progress in recent years, work still needs to be done to prevent transmission among high-risk populations, such as people in prostitution, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men.

"We must not be overconfident," said Erin Soto, Mission Director of USAID Cambodia, at the event's opening ceremony. "Our challenge is to continue to achieve success without becoming a victim of it."

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