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Community Advocacy on Harm Reduction

“In Phnom Penh capital there are approximately 1,300 people who inject drug. The number is not official released,” said Dr. Oum Sopheap, KHANA Executive Director, in the opening of the Sensitization Workshop on “Community Advocacy for Harm Reduction of HIV and AIDS, Drug Abuse and Human Trafficking and Minor Protection, held on 12 July in Sunway Hotel, Cambodia.

Approximately 79 police officials and 28 civil society representatives are invited to the workshop. Dr. Oum Sopheap added that KHANA is one of many countries that received funding support for community advocacy on harm reduction from EC through the International Alliance, based in UK.

“HIV infection is still in a big concern among most-at-population – especially people who use drug, entertainment workers, and men who have sex with men. HIV prevention reach between 30% and 40% of people who use drug in Phnom Penh. Therefore, more cooperation from law enforcement officials, especially from commune and district police chiefs, are necessary,” said H.E Mean Chivun, Director of NCHADS. To prevent HIV and to answer to Cambodia 3.0 by 2020, ART plays an indispensable role in HIV prevention.

“Only 400 of 1,300 people who use drug in Phnom Penh have received HIV prevention service,” said H.E Tia Phalla, Vice-Chair of NAA. “To prevent HIV epidemic among people who use drug, harm reduction and methadone plays a significant role. In the context of implementing the village and commune safety policy and the human trafficking law, most-at-risk population must be guaranteed to receive HIV prevention service,” he added.

“The Ministry of Interior has so far organized four similar workshops in Banteay Meanchey, Phnom Penh, and Sihanouk province. Police have actively involved in HIV prevention since 1997.” said General Pen Vibol, Director of HIV/AIDS Secretariat of the Ministry of Interior, in the opening of the workshop. “I recommend that police shall bear another arm to combat HIV epidemic among people who use drug.”

KHANA has so far collaborated with other harm reduction stakeholders such as the Australian government's HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Program (AusAID/HAARP), FHI 360, other CSOs and harm reduction advocates from the region to share best practice examples.

General Meas Virith, Deputy-Secretary-General of NACD said that the 2012 Drug Control Law prohibits not only drug trafficking, but also drug use. Drug users might face imprisonment up to 6 months if he/she refuses to have his/her drug dependency be treated. He said the law also promotes harm reduction [Articles 45, 53, 100, and 107]. A drug user is a victim and police must refer him/her for treatment in cooperation with civil society. However, he expressed that drug traffickers must not be tolerated.

To support harm reduction, KHANA organizes its annual sensitization workshops on harm reduction in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior through HIV/AIDS Secretariat of the Ministry of Interior.  Since 2011 KHANA has organized sensitization workshops on harm reduction in the provinces of Stung Treng, Kampong Speu, Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh.

By Mey Sovannara

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