Cambodia/ART: Emphasis on prevention over treatment

There are around 150,000 to 200,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, a country with 11.5 million inhabitants. This year, an estimated 7,300 people will become infected, including 2,600 children (source : National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs).

Cambodian health authorities tend to place an emphasis on AIDS prevention - in terms of AIDS treatment, very little is done at national level: only 100 specialised beds are earmarked for adult AIDS patients in the whole country - 60 of them are in the Norodom Sihanouk hospital in Phnom Penh.

MSF has been running an AIDS care programme in the Norodom Sihanouk hospital since mid-1997, and in July 2001, introduced antiretroviral therapy. MSF is the only NGO in Cambodia to offer free triple therapy within a state-run hospital. Many patients travel for a day or more to come to the MSF HIV consultation.

The programme aims to offer AIDS patients the most effective level of care, i.e. medical treatment and monitoring, with psychosocial support. Patients are tested and diagnosed, counselled, monitored, and treated for opportunistic infections. Every month, 20-30 new patients are given antiretroviral treatment.

At the end of October 2002, 273 patients (including 11 children) had started triple therapy. 350 should be under treatment by the end of the year. Many patients live in the provinces - MSF is weighing up the possibility of treating AIDS patients with triple therapy in other health centres around the country.