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MSF in Cambodia, 2001
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MSF Begins Direct AIDS Treatment
Cambodia's public health system remains quite weak despite a marked increase in the state budget for health and the greatest political stability in three decades. The divide between rich and poor is growing, with many rural people facing limited access to health care and a high burden of infectious diseases.
Fighting Infectious Disease
In a welcome new development, MSF is at last able to ease the suffering of some of Cambodia's 169,000 AIDS victims with the introduction of antiretroviral treatment. Since July 2001, the drugs have been administered for free at Sihanouk Hospital in Phnom Penh, where MSF runs a 60-bed ward for AIDS patients. It is hoped that 20 patients can be integrated into the program each month; MSF has committed to the project for at least five years in order to ensure regular and permanent treatment.
HIV awareness and prevention programs target specific groups such as young people, sex workers, and their clients through STD clinics in the areas of Siem Reap, Sisophon, and Poipet. The Svay Pak clinic in Phnom Penh, which provides health services and education for sex workers, is being handed over to local management. MSF has obtained its objective of improving AIDS care at Battambang Provincial Hospital.
The decline in malaria continues with the number of cases seen in Anlong Veng, Trapeang Prasat, and Sotnikum hospitals only a fraction of those in 1999 and 2000. Nevertheless, MSF remains prepared for outbreaks of disease and natural disasters. A pilot home care DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short Course) program to treat tuberculosis set up in the Phnom Penh area in 1997 drew to a close in fall 2001.
Developing Sustainable Health Care
Since its arrival in Cambodia 11 years ago, MSF has concentrated on building and strengthening health facilities in marginalized areas. Most recently this has involved close collaboration with the Ministry of Health in implementing the Health Financing Scheme or "New Deal" in the areas of Takeo, Sotnikum, and now the former frontline area of Thmar Pouk. The results are encouraging, with activity in Thmar Pouk increased three-fold from last year.
MSF also assists hospitals by providing medical supplies, training, and some management support.