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World AIDS Day Ribbons Festival in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH: World AIDS Day was held across the world on 16 December 2022. The Ribbons festival was held at Friends Futures Factory in Phnom Penh, and was attended by the Senior Minister of the special mission and Chairman of the National AIDS Authority, Eang Moly, as well as the US Ambassador to Cambodia, Patrick Murphy. Both gave speeches on how important World AIDS day is to the Kingdom.

The slogan for World AIDS Day this year was “Equalize” - a call to action for each of us to address the inequalities which are holding back progress in ending AIDS. Particularly, World AIDS Day also aims to increase the availability, quality and suitability of services for HIV treatment, testing and prevention, so that everyone around the world is well-served.

The Ribbons festival held at Friends Futures Factory had the main objective of normalizing HIV/STI testing, to promote HIV prevention services among young key populations and to offer a safe space where people can have fun, get the right information and available prevention services on spot. Booths from sponsors and NGOs as well as testing booths were set up during the event.

“It’s very important to educate and make [people] aware that there are precautions [to take], and [that they should not] be scared [of taking] an HIV test,” said Yun Phearun, the Executive Director of the Chhouk Sar Association and one of the organizers of the event.

Speaking more about his organisation, he said, “Chhouk Sar is a local NGO that works within the HIV/AIDS program… working [to provide] an HIV/AIDS care and treatment program that mostly focuses on a key population, including entertainment workers, men who have sex with men, [and] transgender people.”

He added that his organization offers some HIV/AIDS related services for free.

“At Chhouk Sar, we provide HIV testing and counseling for the key [target] population and general population that are most at risk,” he said. “[If] they feel that they are at risk, they can go to the Chhouk Sar clinic to undergo testing, and if they are negative, we will introduce them to get PrEP.”

The Senior Minister of the special mission and Chairman of the National AIDS Authority, Eang Moly, spoke with EAC News about how important World AIDS Day is for Cambodia, saying the annual national celebration of World AIDS Day shows the Royal Government’s strong commitment to fighting this epidemic.

“It is very important for Cambodia because it is the day where we have to remind everyone of the danger of AIDS,” he said. “AIDS continues to be a threat to our public health. So we have to repeat the same gesture every year to let the people understand the threat of HIV/AIDS… we also have to remember the loss of lives [caused by] HIV/AIDS.”

The National AIDS Authority Chairman also stressed that it is important that all stakeholders work together with the government to educate people about HIV/AIDS.

"In Cambodia, we are dealing with the threat of HIV/AIDS in a multi-disciplinary manner that means everyone [should be involved], like my Prime Minister said, you have to move from the top, and everyone has to do everything [they can together],” he said. “So we are not working just with government agencies but we [also] partner with agencies like International UN Agencies [and] UNAID.”

The Chairman further added that the Cambodian government does not discriminate against same sex relationships.

"We encourage young people, especially those who love the same sex… We encourage them because we are not discriminating against them, we love them even if they have a different orientation, but we encourage them to take precaution when they make love, using condoms or now with prevention programs like PrEP, and to be safe,” he said.

The Ribbons festival at Friends Futures Factory also featured singers, a drag show, a dance competition, and a special DJ set to wrap up the festivities, which went on into the night.

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