Injection Drug Use Threatens To Increase HIV/AIDS Rates in Cambodia, Official Says
An increase in injection drug use, which is being driven by an influx of low-cost methamphetamines, is contributing to rising HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia, Lour Ramin, director-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Monday, the SAPA/Independent Online reports. According to Ramin, although statistics show that overall drug use has decreased in Cambodia, injection drug use is both growing and spreading primarily because of the emerging popularity of ice, a low-cost but potent and addictive methamphetamine often sold in crystal form. "The face of drug use in Cambodia is changing," Ramin said, adding, "Even though the use of drugs in Cambodia has decreased overall, it has spread. Before, drug use outside of the capital was rare, but new reports show this is no longer the case."
Ramin said his agency has found that 14% of injection drug users in the capital of Phnom Penh were HIV-positive in 2006 -- a figure that increased to 35.1% as of 2007. As a result of the spread of ice, there are concerns about a nationwide trend, Ramin added.
According to the SAPA/Independent Online, although Cambodia in recent years has seen some successes in the fight against the disease, the country continues to have one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the region. In addition, some experts have warned that complacency and changing demographics of those most at risk of the virus -- from commercial sex workers to drug users and others -- could contribute to the spread of HIV (SAPA/Independent Online, 10/13).