Cambodia is one of the select countries projected to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, by 2015. For instance, data shows that the overall adult HIV prevalence is 0.7%, significantly decreased from 1.9% in 1997 and 90% of eligible people living with HIV receive treatment.
However, these gains remain fragile as long as pockets of high prevalence persist amongst the most-at-risk populations (MARPs), including the entertainment workers, injecting drug users (IDU), and in particular men who have sex with men (MSM). The prevalence amongst MSM is estimated at 4% in 2007 (4.5 times of the national prevalence). Discrimination and stigma has been one of the root causes that make MSM and Trans Gender (TG) people unable or unwilling to access health services. Besides the needs for effective prevention and treatment, this experience of stigma and discrimination points to the need to promote greater respect for their human rights (1).
The National MSM Network/ Bandanh Chaktomuk (BC), established in 2006, is a National Community Network for MSM and TGs in Cambodia, legitimately representing MSM and TG communities to advocate and promote participation in policies, strategy development, and programme implementation and monitoring in order to eliminate discrimination against the communities, and to improve access to reproductive and sexual health, HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services, livelihood, employment, legal services for each MSM and TG person.
The National Network of MSM and TG people/Bandanh Chaktomuk (BC) is organizing its third General Assembly on 23rd November 2012 in Phnom Penh. Five hundred MSM and TG members from ten selected provinces and partners are expected to attend the assembly. Besides electing the new leadership committee of the network, the General Assembly will review the progresses made and challenges faced in the last three years and discuss and identify the key priority actions to be considered in the Action Plan 2013 – 2014 to achieve network’s goals and objectives and goals. The Assembly is technically and financially supported by the National AIDS Authorities (NAA), Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Family Health International (FHI), Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA) and UNESCO.
One of the most important agenda items of the General Assembly is the election of new Executive Committee. The BC Secretariat and Election Committee have organized a national registration campaign in ten provinces and municipalities to register community network membership and candidates for the Executive Committee, and orient them about the election process as well as the profile of the network. 35 Youth MSM and TG Volunteers supported the campaign. As a result of this exercise, 1205 MSM and TG people have registered to become official members of the network and nearly 100 of them have expressed their interests to be candidates for the new Executive Committee. Among the registered candidates, only seven will be elected by members during the General Assembly.
In addition to supporting the organization of the General Assembly, UNESCO, together with UNAIDS, UNDP and National AIDS Authority, provided technical and financial assistance to BC network for conducting the Institutional Capacity Assessment and in drafting of the Action Plan 2013 – 2014. In 2013, UNESCO will continue provide technical support in enhancing the capacities of the newly elected Executive Committee for improved governance, communications and advocacy, community engagement and resource mobilization.
(1) Men Who Have Sex with Men in Cambodia: HIV/AIDS Vulnerability, Stigma, and Discrimination, POLICY, 2004 and MSM Rights Is Human Rights, HACC, April 2008