According to UNAIDS, in Cambodia’s population of about 15 million about 80,000 (0.53%) are infected with HIV. According to the latest figures, 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.
Mother and Son
In a cozy neighborhood of Phnom Penh’s inner city we’re meeting 20-year-old Seyha and his mother, Choun Sokha. Seyha was infected with HIV at birth from his mother.
Until 2005, mother-to-child transmission was a major cause of the rapid spread of the AIDS epidemic in many African countries. Nowadays we know that if the infected pregnant mother gets the right medication, the chance of transmission to her baby is reduced to almost zero. Everywhere today that this knowledge is brought into practice leads to spectacular success. Treated mothers bear healthy babies.
Historically, drug users and sex workers in Cambodia are the groups most infected with HIV. But Seyha and his mother show that in this century HIV can also afflict the ordinary Cambodian family where drugs and prostitution play no role. In our film Seyha and his mother tell how that came about and what its consequences have been.
Text: Erwin Kokkelkoren
Photography: Erik Smits
Film: Willem Aerts and Wilko van Oosterhout
Translation: Pete Kaiser