PHNOM PENH—The United States has given Cambodia nearly U.S. $30 million to fight HIV/AIDS in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Charles Ray signed two grant agreements June 30 with Cambodia Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.
Some U.S. $29 million given in grants is earmarked for HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and care, as well as promoting maternal and child health and improving health workers' skills.
Another U.S. $6 million will go toward improving education, including for the disabled and ethnic minorities, as well as teacher training and programs to reduce drop out rates, officials said.
Ray said Cambodia has made “significant progress” in reducing HIV/AIDS over the last five years but added the government must “keep those improvements sustained.”
"Better health facilities and improved classrooms are important, and our programs are helping to bring this about,” said Ray, whose term expires in the coming weeks.
He said the grants will bring total U.S. aid to Cambodia this year to U.S.$55 million.
UNAIDS says AIDS is spreading faster in East Asia than anywhere else in the world, although the proportion of HIV-positive adults in Cambodia fell from 3 percent in 1997 to 1.9 percent in 2003.
Other countries now struggling to address the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users include Burma, Vietnam, and Indonesia
In East Asia as a whole, the number of people living with HIV rose by 24 percent in 2004 alone, according to a UNAIDS report published July 1 at a regional AIDS conference in Kobe, Japan.
Nearly 3,000 people from 60 countries recognized that the region is “at a crossroads” with the epidemic, with 12 million new infections expected in the next five years without any additional action.
Prasada Rao, regional support team director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, said that in a region where 1,500 people die each day due to AIDS, “Business as usual is no longer an option.”