Cambodian healthcare workers receive training to provide HIV services for young key populations 

Forty (40) healthcare workers from the Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Battambang districts in Cambodia have received training to provide young key population-friendly HIV services. The training was conducted by Youth LEAD, KHANA Cambodia and UNAIDS, with support from Cambodia’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHAD). The initiative is part of a regional healthcare worker sensitization programme supported by the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).  

The provision of youth- and key population-friendly sexual and reproductive health services is part of a comprehensive approach to addressing the high HIV risk now borne by young key populations in the Asia Pacific region. UNAIDS data reveal that in 2021 there were an estimated 260 000 new HIV infections in Asian and Pacific countries. According to a recent report by UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA and Youth LEAD,  young people aged 15–24 years accounted for 26% of these cases. In the 15 – 24 age-group, almost all (99%) new infections regionally were among people from key populations and their partners. In five countries, including Cambodia, more than 40% of new infections were among youth.  

Among the challenges to reaching young key populations with prevention, testing and treatment services are legal and policy barriers including the age of consent, concerns about privacy and confidentiality and stigma and discrimination among healthcare providers. The opening hours of public clinics are not convenient for young people and services are not tailored to meet their needs. 

The two-day training follows the “Regional Healthcare Worker Training Manual: Friendly HIV and SRHR services for young key populations in Asia Pacific” developed by Youth LEAD in 2021. The healthcare providers participated in various learning and interactive sessions on the characteristics of young key populations and youth-friendly HIV services, skills needed to provide YKP friendly HIV services and youth-friendly counselling techniques. The training has been successfully piloted in the three other DFAT-recipient countries, namely Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.  

“The 15 – 24 age category represents 15% of the population in our region, but 26% of all new infections,” said Officer in Charge of the UNAIDS Asia Pacific Regional Support Team, Brigitte Quenum. “Addressing the programmatic, legal, policy and social inequalities that increase young key populations’ HIV risk is a top priority for UNAIDS. We value the collaboration of communities, governments, healthcare workers and DFAT to tackle these issues in a systematic way.” 

UNAIDS and its regional partners through the Asia Pacific Inter Agency Task Team on Young Key Populations are deploying a comprehensive strategy to reduce the HIV risk of young key populations in the region. Among their priorities are empowering young people to contribute to the HIV response to improve their health and well-being, as well as advocating for an enabling environment for young key populations in the region. 

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