Cambodia's new 'killing field'
AIDS epidemic is Asia's worst
July 24, 1997
Web posted at: 2:22 p.m. EDT (1822 GMT)
From Reporter John Raedler
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Cambodia has the worst AIDS
epidemic in Asia, an outbreak growing at one of the fastest
rates in the world, according to a recently published report
by the World Health Organization. A visit to the capital
city's Toul Kork Street shows why.
In a country where commercial sex is rampant, the young women
on Toul Kork Street sell themselves for as little as 6 cents.
Up to 60 percent of them are infected with HIV, but few seem
to know anything about the virus.
The phenomenally fast spread of HIV in Cambodia has been
almost exclusively through heterosexual means and in a
majority of cases has involved prostitutes.
In the under-resourced HIV unit at Phnom Penh's Calmette
Hospital, Mam Bun Than is dying of advanced AIDS. He and his
doctor are in no doubt as to how he was infected.
"He go, from time to time, to see the prostitute," the doctor
A common pattern finds prostitutes infecting men, who then
infect their wives or girlfriends.
Mom Srey is such a victim. She says she was infected by her
husband and is
now near death. Her baby son died from AIDS two months ago.
In a population of 10 million, Mom Srey is one of 120,000
Cambodians carrying HIV.
Cambodia's soaring infection rate suggests an AIDS
catastrophe here within just a few years.
In fact, some doctors warn that only immediate and major
intervention can prevent another "killing fields," a
reference to the Cambodian genocide in which up to 2 million
people were killed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime between
1975 and 1979.
Help does exist, ranging from money donated by international
governments to condom distribution carried out by
But close observers of the crisis say the international
community -- and the Cambodian government -- must do more.
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