Handbook on HIV for Parliamentarians developed in Cambodia

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Handbook on HIV for Parliamentarians developed in Cambodia

24 February 2010

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In Cambodia HIV prevalence has fallen to an estimated 0.7% among the adult population in 2009, down from a high of 2% in 1998. With this it is one of the few countries in the world which has achieved Millennium Development Goal 6 – to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015. At the same time, intensive work is underway to ensure Cambodia reaches its ambitious, yet attainable, universal access targets for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by end of 2010.

Political commitment at the highest level is recognized as a critical factor in Cambodia’s success in creating a supportive legislative and policy environment, and building a strong multisectoral national response to HIV.

Cambodia is one of the first countries in the region to establish a Law on Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS to eliminate stigma and discrimination and protect the rights of people living with HIV and those with risk behaviours for HIV.

It is against this backdrop that the Commission No. 8 with support from the National AIDS Authority, the UNDP Legislature Assistance Project of the National Assembly, Family Health International USAID funded Prasit Project, and UNAIDS, developed the Parliamentary Handbook on HIV. It was launched at the National Assembly on January 29, 2010.

“The Parliamentary Handbook on HIV provides an opportunity to renew the commitment to scale up services for universal access. As leaders accountable to the people of Cambodia, Parliamentarians’ understanding of the HIV epidemic and response is vital”, said Tony Lisle UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Cambodia.

In a mature HIV response, such as Cambodia’s, policies and legislation must be proactive, rather than reactive. Community involvement is key to address both the individual and societal factors that make people vulnerable to HIV infection, including men who have sex with sex workers, the wives of these men, sex and entertainment workers themselves, young people, men who have sex with men, and people who use drugs.

Also, through public forums and partnerships with civil society, parliamentarians can better monitor the effectiveness of the Law on Prevention and Control of HIV. Parliamentarians have a crucial role to examine how acts such as the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation and the draft Law on Drug Control affect the scaling up of universal access to prevention, treatment, and care and support.

As such, parliamentarians’ active oversight of the HIV response is imperative. This includes meeting with communities, and reviewing progress, gaps and bottlenecks with respect to critical issues, such as eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination, ensuring access to quality treatment and health care, and intensifying prevention among most at risk populations, as well as working with the ministry of interior to ensure that laws are properly enforced.

The Parliamentary Handbook on HIV is a user-friendly resource, presenting brief and concise information about the epidemic, its causes, responses, as well as parliamentarians’ roles and responsibilities. It is an enabling tool in Parliamentarians’ work to ensure an effective HIV response across advocacy, leadership, policy and legislative areas.