Mo’s story: we need better access to health services in Cambodia

Ever since he was young Mo has felt love for other men, but he’s tried to hide his sexual orientation from his parents, his siblings, his neighbourhood and his friends.

Ever since he was young Mo has felt love for other men, but he’s tried to hide his sexual orientation from his parents, his siblings, his neighbourhood and his friends.

Mo, 45, is the second oldest brother of four siblings and a farmer. Sitting on an old bamboo bed in Snueng commune, around 20 km from Battambang town, he explains he is afraid his community will look down on him and not chat with him if they found out he has sex with other men.

Mo said: “I started to have sex with men when I was 35 years old and I have many partners in this commune. I never use a condom but I am sure my partners have no virus, sexually transmitted infection or other diseases. Still, I feel afraid when I occasionally have a test for HIV. Staff from the government health centre collaborated with outreach workers from Men’s Health Social Services to conduct community testing and counselling in my village and I was happy when my result showed that I am HIV negative.”

Making HIV services more accessible

Mo also said: “I am not sure whether my partner sees a doctor to access services and I never go to visit the doctor at Battambang provincial hospital because I have no time and it is also far from my home. If I go I must spend a lot of money on travel costs for a round trip.”

Dr Ny Socheat, senior technical officer with Cambodia’s largest NGO working on HIV prevention, KHANA, said: “The National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and  STD only recently launched community/peer initiated testing and counselling  in Battambang.  Outreach workers in the province have not yet been trained on the guidelines and on implementing the new model but we expect this to start shortly.”

Mo suggested that the government and other relevant stakeholders should consider setting up a complete package of services in government health centres in areas where men who have sex with men live and make them easy to access in order to reduce the distance and cost involved in travelling to them.

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