World AIDS Day is held internationally on December 1 to remember the lives of those lost to AIDS, celebrate the achievements of the past, and commit to ending HIV/AIDS.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS issued a warning that the COVID-19 pandemic was worsening the AIDS epidemic by “disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence-prevention programmes and more.” It urged governments to tackle inequality, which was driving both the COVID-19 and AIDS pandemics.
In Cambodia, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s partner organisation, the Association to Support Vulnerable Women (ASVW), held a community forum to raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on entertainment workers. They were also promoting the World Health Organisation’s theme for World AIDS Day in 2021: “End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics”.
Dyna Chan, President of ASVW said: “We can forget about HIV/AIDS, but it will never forget us. Although AIDS-related deaths have declined in recent years, we have to take good care of our health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
About 50 entertainment workers, children and peer educators were excited to attend the World AIDS Day Event on 6 December 2021, which was held in Russey Keo, Phnom Penh. They came together to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS, and to highlight the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV/AIDS services while the world is facing a global pandemic.
The ASVW works to promote sex worker rights as workers’ rights through empowering and mobilizing peer educators and members.
Ny Khan, a community member of ASVW said: “I used to work as an entertainment worker when I was young. I knew nothing about how to protect my health from getting HIV/AIDS. I was discriminated against because I have HIV/AIDS.
“I had wished to see my daughter get a higher education. But I was afraid of joining her high school graduation day. I don’t want everyone to know that I am her mother. I am afraid my daughter is being discriminated against by her friends and teachers.
“When I become a member of ASVW, I was inspired to take care of my health. I began accessing health services and became involved with others to raise awareness and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Ny said.
A 39-year-old woman attending the event said: “I have been working for ASVW as a peer educator for about 10 years. I have gained knowledge of how to take proper care of my health while I am living with AIDS.”