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With a population of 15,760,000, Cambodia has an estimated 67,000 adults living with HIV, or about 0.43%. New infections have been falling steadily since 1995, now reaching a steady low state of fewer than 1000 new cases per year, while the coverage of Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been rising to 80% of affected adults.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) constitute less than half Cambodia’s HIV-positive persons, though predictably, those have a higher rate of infection than the general population. Only about 40% of young people 15-24 know about HIV prevention; and fewer young women than young men.
Of Cambodia and its neighboring countries Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, Cambodia’s infection rate falls about in the middle. Thailand, with a much larger population, has a higher overall rate but has reduced its mother-to-child infection rate to zero; and Vietnam, largest of these countries with a population 6 times that of Cambodia, has a lower overall rate.

(Figures from UNAIDS, 2016)

SAN SEYHA, life at the Mekong river

March 2017, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

According to UNAIDS, in Cambodia’s population of about 15 million about 80,000 (0.53%) are infected with HIV. New infections come to just over 1,000 a year. The HIV and AIDS epidemic therefore seems reasonably controlled. Those in Cambodia most affected by HIV are drug users, transgenders, entertainment workers and men who have sex with men.

Photographer Erik Smits spent a day with San Seyha, a young man who works on a tourist boat during the day and as a sex worker at night.

“I can be honest to them. I don’t have to lie. All three of us have hiv.”


“I’m happy now.
I have a good job. I am a nurse.”


“I don’t want to lose her. She is the most important person in my life.”

Mother and Son

“All three of us had this decease.”

Family life and HIV

“Our goal is to end AIDS in 2020.”

HIV and AIDS healthcare

His HIV infection has to wait now and then...

MSM or Gay