HomeNews20 years plus living positively is a book of the true stories of nine people living with HIV in Cambodia

20 years plus living positively is a book of the true stories of nine people living with HIV in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, February 26, 2016 - The Cambodian People living with HIV Network (CPN+) launches "20 years plus living positively", a new book of life stories of nine people living with HIV in Cambodia.

"20 years plus living positively" is a unique and inspirational book written by people who have been living with HIV in Cambodia since years to share their positive life experience and successes. HIV changed their lives with unexpected challenges, moments of anxiety, loss and stigmatization but also triggered new hopes, resilience, solidarity, self-confidence, dignity and determination to overcome many health and stigma issues and turn it into positive living with new opportunities.

It is a compilation of amazing testimonials of a few people living with HIV (PLHIV) and their powerful wisdom at key moments of life and their journey marked by challenging moments but, with courage and access to health and other services, how prejudice and a life threatening infection were turned into pride and a manageable chronic disease. The contributors share their real life experience of how they and their families faced and addressed stigmatization and discrimination, progressively accessed services and took care of themselves to improve their quality of life in the community and sexual well-being whilst living with HIV. It includes stories of PLHIV who have now been on antiretroviral treatment (ART) for about 15 years allowing them, if taken regularly with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, to lead to long, healthy and productive life for them and their families. It shows how stigmatization and discrimination are harmful and promotion of zero tolerance change lives and is a must for all. It also demonstrates the power of access to information and the importance of peer support among the community of people living and/or affected by HIV and their full meaningful engagement in HIV prevention, treatment care and support as well as livelihood and employment opportunities to improve their economic status. PLHIV have, as any other Cambodians, great hope and potential and should have equal opportunities in any situations.

"Managing the HIV response requires more than medicine. This publication aims to share our stories and inform the general public, the government, civil society organizations and development partners about the value of their support to people living with HIV community and how it changes lives. Moreover, we want policy makers at all levels to think beyond support of ART, opportunistic infection treatment and to explore how people living with HIV can further actively participate in political, social, economic, and cultural development of Cambodia and help addressing other health issues using their community support experience with HIV," said Sorn Sotheariddh, national coordinator of CPN+.

HIV was first reported in 1981 and remains a challenging disease and public health concern worldwide. In Cambodia today, an estimated 73,000 people are living with HIV and the coverage of antiretroviral treatment (ART) for all PLHIV was 73% at end 2015. Those stories highlight some behaviour putting people at risk but which can be prevented with correct information and prevention and how ART is effective to reduce the impact of HIV on PLHIV health. Beyond keeping PLHIV healthy and productive, antiretroviral treatment, if taken on a regular basis over time, also has prevention benefit as it reduce the transmission of HIV. It is thus a good investment for several reasons and further reinforces the key contribution of PLHIV to the national HIV response. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS but treatment is effective, however, it needs to be taken on a daily basis and for life. Retention of ART treatment remains a critical priority for the health of PLHIV and CPN+ has been instrumental is accompanying PLHIV all over Cambodia through peer support to enrol and remain on treatment well as care and support for positive living. As the national HIV response is facing new challenges including external funding decline, this wide community peer network is invaluable and need to be supported to continue.