Cambodian wives the new victims of AIDS

PHNOM PENH: Seven Cambodian housewives are newly infected with HIV/AIDS each day by their husbands, overtaking sex workers as the fastest growing victim group, officials said yesterday. 

Speaking on the eve of World AIDS Day tomorrow, secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority (NAA) Tia Phalla said that the alarming infection rate was causing the country's health officials to radically re-evaluate AIDS education campaigns. 

He said an NAA report due for release on Friday showed that while infection rates among sex workers had actually declined, there had been a dramatic increase in infection rates in wives. 

“The rate of HIV infection is increasingly high among housewives. Our surveys show seven housewives contract the infection every day,” Tia Phalla said.  

“This rate is higher than the rates among sex workers. In fact, among sex workers infection rates have actually been reduced.” 

He said the traditional role of the wife as a trusting and obedient partner in Cambodian culture meant they were unable to speak out and had not received the level of education about the disease that those in the sex industry had. 

Cambodia's growing itinerant male workforce combined with a rampant sex industry and a cultural acceptance that men may indulge in extra-marital relationships were all contributing to men bringing AIDS back with them into their family homes, he said. – dpa  

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