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International Groups Express Concern About Cambodian ‘AIDS Colony’

In an open letter to Cambodia’s prime minister and health minister, more than 100 international HIV/AIDS advocates and human rights organizations “accused the Cambodian government of herding HIV-affected families into an ‘AIDS colony’ outside the capital, Phnom Penh,” the Guardian reports (McCurry, 7/28). 

According to CNN, the letter said the “de facto AIDS colony at Tuol Sambo … is far away from the jobs, medical facilities and support services” residents had when they lived in the city. The human rights advocates said the HIV-positive residents were moved despite repeated appeals to the government, including from the U.N. (7/28).

The groups said they are very concerned about the “life-threatening” conditions in the settlement where 40 families live in “sheet-metal sheds without running water or proper sanitation,” writes the Guardian. According to the newspaper, the Cambodian government has spent the past two months moving HIV-positive people from the Borei Keila district of Phnom Penh to Tuol Sambo, “a flood-prone area 15 miles away” (7/28). In June, 20 families with HIV-positive members were evicted from their homes and moved to make way for a Ministry of Tourism garden, according to the Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report (6/19).

Local officials acknowledged concerns about the settlement and said they were attempting to improve conditions, reports the Guardian. “We are trying to find clean water for them,” said Mann Chhoeun, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor. Chhoeun added that there are plans to distribute free medicine via the Centre of Hope mission (7/28). The open letter “acknowledged the international recognition the Cambodian government has received for treating and supporting people living with HIV,” CNN reports (7/28).

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