- Caritas Cambodia and HIV/AIDS
- HIV/AIDS guiding principles
The number of Aids victims is growing day by day and today there is an estimated number of about 40 millions living with HIV/AIDS. In South-East Asia, Cambodia has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS affected victims. This situation is alarmingly increasing every year. The national response is necessarily limited by the destruction of the health system under the Pol Pot regime and is under-funded since that time. National and Local governments rely heavily on NGOs to help with the awareness building and access to treatments. Work on HIV/AIDS is a key area of work for Caritas Network and in particular for Caritas Cambodia. It is with a sense of urgency that Caritas Cambodia has included the response to AIDS victims as a priority.
Caritas Cambodia is to “Promote those works of charity and justice that give careful attention to the impact of HIV and Aids especially on women and girls and mobilize effective actions in response to these tragic consequences”.
- From this vision, Caritas Cambodia finds it impossible to tolerate a situation of global spread of HIV in which:
- Women living with HIV are blamed as being “vector of HIV” even when they have been constantly faithful to their husbands and when the entry of the virus into the family circle has come from their husband’s infidelity.
- Abject poverty too often compels women and children to submit themselves to human trafficking, forced or commercial sex trade, sale of blood for day to day survival or in some cases selling of children to the sex trade.
- HIV pandemic has also arisen as a result of false or distorted notions about HIV prevention measures and sexual abuse.
Caritas Cambodia and HIV Aids
- Caritas Cambodia in its new strategic plan is developing a two pronged action in response to the HIV AIDS problem:
- Taking care of the affected victims of the pandemic by giving them a caring environment wherein they can live in confidence and dignity.
- Integrating awareness building and dissemination of information in all development programs in order to make the community become conscious of the ill effects of the problem.
These activities are taken up as a special program and Caritas Cambodia will continue to consider this issue as a priority and will motivate and mobilize the Caritas network and the local NGO network to take up this issue as of prime importance. HIV/Aids awareness built into the different development programs will give the possibility to make the communities especially the VDA aware of the situation of injustice in which the victims are subject to, and the responsibility of the community to their less fortunate neighbors. The present ongoing project experience has shown that it is the combination of formal education awareness and the project presence in the neighborhood, at the centers, in the prisons, in the hospitals and doing home care that ultimately breaks down prejudice against and fear of people living with Aids. It has become a key area of work for Caritas Cambodia.
HIV/AIDS guiding principles
Caritas Cambodia strives to give a haven of hope where all people especially the poorest, the marginalized and the oppressed find hope and are empowered to the fullness of their humanity as part of a global community. This conviction motivates Caritas Cambodia to find it intolerable to accept the spread of HIV in Cambodia, and the way affected people are neglected by the government and stigmatized by the population.
In order to achieve this, Caritas Cambodia will:
- Integrate information about the special vulnerability of women and girls to become HIV infected and promote responsible behavior on the part of men and boys in all its education and formation programs.
- Advocate for and sponsor prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV by the use of antiretroviral medications and (when medically indicated) extend long term antiretroviral treatment services to women living with HIV even after they have given birth in order to prolong the lives of both mother and child.
- Ensure the active participation of women of every age in planning and implementing programs conducted by Caritas Cambodia.
- Offer priority attention to women and girls in its HIV/AIDS programmes through care and treatment services, with the understanding that local communities and programmes will need to develop equitable policies for access to antiretroviral medications by all PLHA, especially women and girls in need of such treatment
- Strongly oppose any attempt to stigmatize, marginalize or discriminate against PLHA, especially women and girls who are living with or otherwise infected by HIV.
- Organize and arrange for confidential counseling and voluntary HIV testing services that are sensitive to the particular needs of women and girls in this regard.
- Integrate HIV/Aids victims as peer counselors in the accompaniment process, but this needs to be clearly stipulated and defined.
Caritas, in order to translate the above vision into action and in order to implement its guiding principles, needs to build up on the present experience that it has gained through its ongoing program in Siem Reap, and will have to replicate it in other vulnerable and high risk areas.
In the same way, the occupational activities, given to the HIV/AIDS affected women, is also a means to give them the possibility to lead a normal life in dignity and avoid social death through stigmatization and marginalization. This program has proven to be of great benefit for the victims. At this juncture, Caritas Cambodia also reflected on the question of integration of HIV/AIDS affected people as employees and added rules in its Human Resources policy regarding the hiring and HR management in this case. (See HR policy). October 15, 2006 Phnom Penh