Documentary on Buddhist Monks’ Fight Against AIDS in Cambodia

At PBS Frontline:


Genocide trials have begun in Cambodia for the surviving leaders and officials of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in the 1970s. The “killing fields” of that era are what Cambodia is most known for internationally. But for years, the country has quietly held another frightening distinction: The nation with the highest AIDS rate in Asia.

AIDS was first identified in Cambodia in 1993. The virus spread quickly, with Cambodia’s sex industry fueling the epidemic. To make matters worse, the nation’s health care system, still reeling from the Khmer Rouge, struggled to respond. By some accounts, the regime left fewer than a dozen doctors in the entire country, which had an estimated population of 6.3 million. By 1997, Cambodia’s HIV/AIDS infection rates had reached 3 percent of the population. Today, UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program to combat the AIDS epidemic, places that number at 1.6 percent. I went to Cambodia to explore the factors leading to the decline.

By the late 1990s, the Cambodian government had begun to tackle the crisis head on, freely enlisting aid from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and turning to a surprising local source — Cambodia’s community of Buddhist monks.

[H/t: Lisa Guidetti]