Hidden victims of war on drugs

Cambodia’s war on drugs is in full swing, routinely grabbing headlines as ever-growing numbers of suspects – more than 4,000 so far, most of them users – swell the Kingdom’s jails. But behind the high-profile raids, the campaign is having an alarming, albeit hidden, side effect, observers say: With the crackdown multiplying risks for drug users, many are shunning health and substitution therapy services offered by NGOs and clinics, thereby increasing the likelihood they will overdose or contract and transmit HIV, AIDS, and tuberculosis. Data collected by the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance, a national NGO specialising in HIV prevention, shows that during the first month of Cambodia’s drug crackdown, the organisation saw a 15 percent reduction in the number of drug users receiving “harm reduction” services across the board, from 425 people to 359.

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