With HIV rates declining, drug treatment funding shrinks

Drug treatment programs are being cut back even as rates of abuse rise—with one organization describing the situation as a “crisis”—because most funding is tied to HIV prevention and the prevalence of the virus is decreasing, health experts said. “Virtually all civil society funding related to working with people who use drugs is linked to HIV prevention,” said David Harding, an independent consultant who has worked with NGOs on drug abuse prevention and treatment programs in Cambodia. “Less organizations are providing direct services to drug users than there were 10 years ago,” he said. The decline in services comes as Cambodia is wracked by rising methamphetamine abuse, the substance of choice for the largest number of drug users, according to a U.N. report. Meth use is especially prone to being overlooked by the country’s available health service providers because it is most commonly smoked, and many drug treatment programs—focused on the spread of HIV—target injected drugs, such as heroin.

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