Some Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist groups in Cambodia have been exposed for deliberately ignoring the needs of people like prostitutes, homosexuals and the transgendered when educating on HIV/AIDS issues.
A report, the National Review of Faith-Based Responses to HIV in Cambodia, revealed that while many of the religious groups willingly worked to inform the general public about HIV/AIDS, fewer organizations worked with those on the fringes of society.
“While many faith-based organizations provided HIV awareness education to the general population,” the report read, “fewer organizations implemented targeted HIV prevention interventions among key affected populations, such as sex/entertainment workers, men who have sex with men, transgender persons and people who use drugs.”
Even worse, not one association had worked with a single transgendered individual, which could be catastrophic for such an at-risk group.
Because of the practices of the groups concerning stigmatized individuals, the Cambodian National AIDS Authority and Ministry of Cults and Religion combined to tackle the problem.
The organizations rewarded five organizations that significantly increased awareness of HIV/AIDS issues and reviewed the standard practices set May of this year.
“The review’s intention is to inspire and encourage all organizations to work with faith-based leaders to adhere to good practices,” said Ulrike Gilbert, an HIV specialist for UNICEF who contributed to the review.
Apparently, “good practices” don’t include religious principles.
The religious groups are banned from proselytizing, converting, or even speaking about their faiths while administering services to the needy.
In a country like Cambodia, which the World Health Organization claims has the most HIV/AIDS cases of any Asian country, some measures have already been taken to slow down the spread of infection.
Cambodia’s government intervention has helped steadily decrease the prevalence of HIV/AIDS through campaigns like “100 percent condom,” and through enlisting the help of faith-based groups.
The work is far from over, however.
Dr. Tep Kunthy, secretary general of the National AIDS Authority said good practices by religious and government organizations means, “meaningfully involving people living with and affected by HIV in prevention, treatment, and impact mitigation.”
He also said it was necessary to include programs that addressed “the needs of marginalized community members.”