Cambodia is one country determined to meet the United Nation’s goal of virtually eliminating new HIV infections by 2020. A low-income country with high rates of HIV, Cambodia has systematically rolled out treatment and care to their most affected populations: people who inject drugs, sex workers, gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans women.
"If we reach the hidden populations, then they are no longer hidden," Dr Mean Chhi Vun told delegates in the opening plenary at IAS 2013. Dr Vun has headed Cambodia’s HIV response for over a decade and, prior to that, was responsible for rebuilding the country’s health system after years of civil war.
By adopting an approach that includes a range of prevention methods, including treatment as prevention and by boosting care services, new HIV infections in Cambodia have plummeted from an estimated 20,000 annually in the early 1990s to around 1,300 in 2012.
The country recognises it still faces tremendous challenges, particularly in reaching all segments of their affected populations within what is still a fragmented health system.
They are looking to sharpen epidemiological targeting to include more specific community groups. They want to simplify referral systems and plan on introducing finger-prick HIV testing to make ‘test and treat’ a more streamlined operation.
The mobilising of the community under a single command-and-control strategy does seem more possible in a socialist state, but these results are no less remarkable for it.