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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promotes drug dependence treatment over incarceration in Cambodia

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 1 November 2010
- From 26 to 28 October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Cambodia upon the invitation of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

During his visit, Mr. Ban held official talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and His Excellency King Norodom Sihamoni. He also visited Cambodia's first methadone maintenance clinic, at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh.

The clinic is part of a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health of Cambodia, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and civil society. The initiative is supported by the HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Programme which is funded by the Australian Government and the Global Fund for Fighting AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

During his visit to the clinic, Mr. Ban personally administered a dose of methadone to three patients, then said: "I commend the Government of Cambodia for launching this pilot programme. Evidence shows that such initiatives are more effective than incarceration in addressing the social problems caused by addiction".

On community-based drug treatment, the Secretary-General said: "I look forward to continued partnership between the Government and the United Nations system to deliver evidence-based approaches to drug-related problems".

Mr. Ban also took the opportunity to highlight a community-based drug treatment programme initiated by UNODC in Cambodia. This programme is supported by UNAIDS and WHO, and has now been formally adopted by the United Nations Country Team in Cambodia.

Leaving the clinic, Mr. Ban addressed the crowd waiting outside. He praised the excellent work being done by the Government of Cambodia to promote a comprehensive package of drug use prevention, treatment and care interventions that is based on evidence.

The Secretary-General said: "I have been very moved by what I have seen and heard today. I have the profoundest respect for the dedicated health workers I met here, as well as the people they are helping to overcome their challenges".

He added that "the UN system will continue to assist the Government to maintain its achievements and to focus on developing a continuum of prevention, care and treatment for HIV/AIDS for populations most at risk, including entertainment workers, men who have sex with men and drug users."

Mr. Ban expressed appreciation to colleagues in the United Nations in Cambodia, in particular those working at UNAIDS, WHO and UNODC, for their strong collaboration with the Government of Cambodia and its partners to enable substantial progress in addressing the harmful consequences of drug use in the country.