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Panel discussions between most-at-risk population representatives and media reporters

Approximately 30 people representing local NGOs, local media, most-at-risk population and the National AIDS authority (NAA) participated in the discussions on how media involved in reducing stigma and discrimination against people who use drug.

KHANA, the largest NGO in Cambodia, in collaboration with NAA, led the penal discussions in the Inter-continental Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 6 December 2013. In his welcome remarks, Dr. Oum Sopheap said media plays a major role in educating and informing the public regarding the fights against HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. He said many do still not know they are living with HIV and he also encourage testing for treatment in time.

H.E. Teng Kunthy, Secretary-General of NAA, said discrimination is a major roadblock to achieving our goals to no new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. He noted that a dozen of HIV/AIDS related articles has been published through print media, televisions, and radios after the workshop that his office organized in collaboration with KHANA and UNESCO with media in October.  However, he encouraged more coverage on HIV/AIDS.

A short video was shown to media reporter participants. Three former people who use drug said that their experience on illicit drug abuses and consequences from drug dependency might be enough to help inform the public, police and policy makers about risks faced by every drug user. “My friend asked me to try and I tried it. I became used to drug. I became poor appetite, or I did not eat at all. My heart beat fast and I lost a lot of weight. Finally, I became weaker and weaker. My family excluded me and I was followed by police for the arrest and detention,” said a former drug user.

Drug users usually face different forms of discrimination, stigmatization, arrest and detention and life risks. Without their words from their mouths to call for help, their situations well inform policy makers and the public about the assistance they may need. These assistances include proper medical treatment, care, HIV and TB prevention, no punishment, no discrimination, etc.

Echoing voices from the video, Ms. Karona, a fictitious name, said poverty had driven her to use drug for years. With drug use, she earns a lot of money by sexual intercourse with different partners. All the money she earned was paid to illicit drug. As the result, she could not save even a dollar. People may fall in illicit drug use in different ways. Poverty, domestic violence, lure by friends, trap by a drug trafficker, and weak law enforcement against drug traffickers.

“I want media to inform the public and policy makers about problems of drug users and provide solutions to help them from drug abuse rather than involving the public to hate them or to exclude them from health care, or to provoke arrest and detention,” said a participant, asked not to be named.

By Mey Sovannara

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