Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and co-discoverer of HIV, is in Phnom Penh this week to share her latest research findings on natural protection against AIDS.
Mean Chhi Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs, told VOA Khmer that Barre-Sinoussi has been actively involved in promoting strong interactions between HIV and AIDS research and public health interventions in resource-limited countries.
“Professor Francoise Barre-Sinoussi has made efforts to find funding to help Cambodia, especially in the research of an effective HIV prevention program,” he said. “She is very well aware of the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. She also knows how much our government has done with it, how civil society groups have taken part in the program, and how the AIDS epidemic evolves.”
Cambodia is one of the few countries that have seen declining HIV prevalence, Chhi Vun said. HIV prevalence in the general population declined from 2 percent in 1998 to 1.2 percent in 2003, and then from 0.9 percent in 2006 to 0.7 percent in 2010, he said. An estimated 51,000 people will be living with HIV in Cambodia in 2010, he said.
Tea Phalla, deputy secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority, told VOA Khmer that Cambodia had been successful in its fight against the disease with the help of the police and a 100 percent condom use campaign.
“The HIV epidemic in Cambodia is concentrated in high risk groups and is primarily driven by the sex industry, and also there are indications of rising prevalence amongst injection drug-using populations and amongst men having sex with men,” he said.
Barre-Sinoussi gave a keynote speech at the University of Cambodia Wednesday and was scheduled to give a talk at the International School of Phnom Penh Thursday. She will hold a public dialogue with researchers at the University of Health sciences Friday.
Barre-Sinoussi and a team of around 20 scientists are now working on learning how the HIV virus is transmitted from mother to child.