By KER MUNTHIT, Associated Press WriterMon Dec 4, 12:13 PM ET
Former President Bill Clinton praised Cambodia's efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS and pledged Monday to work with the government to expand treatment for children living with the disease.
"I think that the leadership you have shown ... gives us hope that Cambodia can be a model for the rest of Asia and, perhaps, for the rest of the world," Clinton said after meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Hun Sen said Clinton's visit, part of a tour of AIDS-related projects and organizations supported by the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, contributed "great political and psychological value" to Cambodia's efforts to battle AIDS and the discrimination against its victims.
Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries, has an HIV infection rate of 1.9 percent for people aged 15-49, among the highest in Southeast Asia. The rate has been significantly reduced from 3 percent in 1997.
About 20,000 children under the age of 15 live with HIV or AIDS in Cambodia, out of a total 123,000 people who are either infected with the virus or have the full-blown disease.
Clinton signed a memorandum for the foundation to continue supporting and expand pediatric treatment of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia. He also called for more education to raise awareness among young people about how the disease is transmitted and can be prevented.
With assistance from the Clinton Foundation, which established its presence in Cambodia in June 2005, the number of children there receiving treatment for HIV or AIDS has increased from 400 to more than 1,200 within the past year, according to the organization's Web site.
On Sunday, Clinton was made an honorary tribal chief during a visit to Papua New Guinea to promote HIV/AIDS charities in the impoverished South Pacific nation.
Clinton Foundation: http://www.clintonfoundation.org