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HIV is the fastest growing epidemic in Asia. Strong political leadership and public response have aided in what appears to be a slowing down of the epidemic among populations at risk since Overall, the national estimated HIV prevalence among the population ages 15 to 49 has fallen from 3. This estimate is based on annual data collected by the national surveillance system among sex workers, police officers, tuberculosis TB patients, blood donors, and antenatal clinic attendees.
The largest decline has occurred among direct sex workers based in brothels , from a crude HIV prevalence rate of There has been a smaller decline in the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women, from 3. HIV can be transmitted from one person to another through unprotected sex; from contaminated blood transfusions and use of unsterilized injection equipment; and from an infected mother to her child in utero, during labor, or during breastfeeding.
In Cambodia, the predominant mode of HIV transmission is sexual contact, primarily through heterosexual sex. While the epidemic has been primarily concentrated in groups that engage in high-risk behavior, including sex workers and their clients, police officers, and military personnel, the epidemic in Cambodia is now considered a general epidemic as HIV is spreading from those individuals to their spouses and partners.
Commercial sex work is the exchange of sex for money or other favors. In Cambodia, this exchange can be found among direct sex workers and indirect sex workers based in bars, massage houses, or karaoke lounges.
Police officers and military personnel are other groups that engages in high-risk activities: They often work far from their wives and families and visit sex workers. In , nearly 10 percent of police officers in Cambodia reported buying unprotected sex during the one month preceding the Behavioral Surveillance Survey BSS.