AIDS Healthcare Foundation To Dedicate Newest AIDS Treatment Center

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation is pleased to announce the opening of the sixth such free AIDS treatment centers in Cambodia.

The six clinics have resulted from a partnership between AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia and Cambodia's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STI Control (NCHADS). The partnership aims to provide life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV/AIDS in care centers in the Operational Districts (OD) of several provinces in Cambodia; other ARTC center locations include in Phnom Penh and in the Provinces of Kandal, Kampong Thom, Kampot and Stung Treng.

"AHF, the Cambodian Ministry of Health and NCHADS are pleased to have successfully opened our fifth collaborative ART center in Koh Thum on Saturday, and we are honored and deeply humbled to also now announce we will open our sixth facility in Romeas Haek later this week in Svay Rieng Province, bringing relief, positive changes, better quality life and above all hope of life" said Dr. Chinkholal Thangsing, Asia Pacific Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Working together over the next five years, we will expand and increase our collaborative initiatives in Cambodia, and AHF will continue to provide technical support and strengthen the antiretroviral treatment roll out and scale up of ART delivery services in Cambodia. It is our sincere hope that this ongoing collaboration between AHF and NCHADS will not only improve increased access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment throughout Cambodia but be a shining example of a comprehensive model of care for people living with HIV/AIDS."

At Saturday's Koh Thum clinic dedication ceremony in Kandal Province, Dr. Mean Chhi Vun, Director NCHADS, and Advisor to the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia, expressed his gratitude to AHF for standing alongside NCHADS and the people of Cambodia to help bring lifesaving services to its people. Dr. Vun also expressed gratitude to AHF for working together with his team at some of the more remote sites, situated in the country -- as the new Romeas Haek site is. He added that, "...together with AHF, we will make greater positive changes for people with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia."

"This newest antiretroviral treatment clinic being dedicated Thursday was first established by NCHADS in January 2007 and is located in the compound of the Romeas Haek Referral Hospital, Romeas Haek Operational District in Svay Rieng Province," said Dr. Chhim Sarath, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Country Program Manager for Cambodia. "The ART clinic is operating in a new building provided by UNICEF, and since January 2007, 56 people living with HIV/AIDS have registered at the clinic. Among them, 26 have already started on antiretroviral treatment, and we are honored to partner with NCHADS and the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Cambodia to help bring treatment to many more Cambodians who may be in need of access to such lifesaving care and treatment."

The partnerships were first formalized in March 2006 in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between AHF and the Cambodian Ministry of Health, and in a letter of agreement (LOA) with AHF, the Ministry of Health, and the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STI Control. Through these partnerships, AHF, the Cambodian Ministry of Health and NCHADS plan to work together on ART scale up in several Cambodian Provinces -- now including both Kandal and Svay Rieng Provinces -- with the goal of bringing 3,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia into treatment over the next five years. In mid-January of this year, a new clinic in the partnership also opened in Stung Treng Province.

One key aspect contributing to the success of AHF's work with its partners in Cambodia includes the linkage of clinic services provided together with other community and home-based services. In addition, the Cambodian partnership focuses on integrating the delivery of services under a Continuum of Care (CoC) approach, an approach that recognizes the complexities surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in order to improve prevention efforts and optimize use of the oftentimes limited resources available in the successful care and treatment of those living with the disease.

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Svay Rieng Province, one of 20 provinces in Cambodia, is located in the eastern part of Cambodia. Romeas Haek serves as one of the Operational Health Districts (OD). Svay Rieng is located about 122 kms from Phnom Penh, and the population of the surrounding area is around 525,472. The Province consists of three (3) Operational Districts and 32 Health Centers (HC). The Romeas Haek Operational District consists of one Referral Hospital and nine (9) individual Health Centers. Romeas Haek is in the northern part of Svay Rieng Province on the border with the country of Viet Nam.

The objectives of this latest collaboration in Svay Rieng is similar to the partnerships' other projects in Kandal, Kampong Thom, Kampot and Stung Treng Provinces as well as in the capital of Phnom Penh, and are as enumerated as below:

-- Capacity and skill building of the doctors and healthcare providers at the Romeas Haek Referral Hospital in collaboration with NCHADS.

-- Establishment of an ART Clinic at the hospital and provision of free ART to PLHAs -- including treatment of both adults and children.

The initial collaboration between AHF and these respected Cambodian institutions first began and were celebrated in March and April 2006 with formal ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the first two other free AIDS treatment facilities (Kampong Thom Province and Phnom Penh). The Phnom Penh facility is located at the Preah Ket Mealea Hospital, and that collaboration was also formalized in a separate MOU between AHF and the Preah Ket Mealea Hospital of the Royal Government of Cambodia. The goal of that facility is to bring medical care and ART to an additional 300 Cambodians.

The first case of HIV infection in Cambodia was reported in 1991 and was followed by a rapid rise in its transmission. Cambodia's national HIV/AIDS prevalence rate -- around 3% in 1997 but decreasing to 1.9% in 2003 -- is still understood to be one of the highest in Southeast Asia. According to a recent AFP/France 24 News Report (as cited on Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily HIV/AIDS Report), "Almost 10,000 Cambodians die of AIDS-related illnesses annually, according to government statistics. About 1.9% of Cambodia's 13.8 million people are HIV-positive."

"This growing collaboration between AHF and our esteemed Cambodian partners includes the delivery of innovative medical and non-medical interventions; providing technical support and training resources to increase and strengthen the diagnostic and treatment capacity and skills of HIV/AIDS and ART treatment services providers in Cambodia -- all of which will now also take place in Romeas Haek," said Henry E. Chang, AHF's Chief of Global Affairs. "AHF has significant expertise and experience in ART service delivery and skills and capacity building related to HIV/AIDS treatment and care, and we are therefore well-positioned to complement the Cambodian Ministry of Health in its efforts to enhance access to prevention, treatment and care at these facilities in Cambodia."

"It is an honor for AHF to be associated with such a successful and practical ART program as in Cambodia, and I thank our partners at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Vun and his team at NCHADS, as well as our own dedicated staff at AHF's Asia Pacific Bureau for helping contribute to making greatly stepped-up treatment availability in Cambodia a reality which increases significantly as each new clinic opens," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

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