1. The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Cambodia threatens to match the destructiveness of the genocide during the Pol Pot regime (1975-1979) when about 1/4 of the population of Cambodia were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in the "killing fields" or died of forced starvation. Attempts to rebuild the country and its infrastructure are now facing increasing mortality rates from HIV/AIDS and associated opportunistic infections. By 2001, the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Cambodia was described as the most devastating in South-East Asia, and Siem Reap Province, the location of the Angkor Wat temples, shows one of the country's highest local prevalence rates .
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2. Recently, in Africa, major corporations have announced that they will provide HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral therapies to their workers. But see the GAP-HEALTH site about Coca-COla's slow progress in implementing this policy. Back to introduction
SiRCHESI's systematic research in Siem Reap, with additional work in Phnom Penh, has shown that many of the women sell about $36 worth of beer daily, or about $13,000 per year for the exclusive brand whose uniform they wear. As indicated in their annual company reports, a portion of that money then goes to the international producer and shareholders, some of whom may be large corporate investors such as teachers' pension plans. In Cambodia- not the only country with this practice- the "beer girls" receive, on average, about $600-$700 per year. From this salary, 33% of the women support children as single mothers, and 90% support rural families. Per person, the cost of anti-retrovirals is about $6000 a year from one Swiss "patent" pharmaceutical company. While a Thai "clone" version of ARVT (anti-retroviral therapy) costs much less, at approx $360 per yea,r this is still approximately one-half of a 'beer girls' annual payments from the beer company. Currently Médecins sans FrontiPres (Doctors without Borders), ESTHER, and other NGOs provide free clone ARVT for small numbers of the nearly 200,0000 Cambodians estimated to be persons living with HIV or AIDS. (PLWHAs) . Back to introduction
4. SiRCHESI's in-depth interviews, focus groups, yearly questionnaire surveys or at-risk groups, workshops, and community participatory action research (www.angkorwatngo.com and select research reports ) all suggests that these 4 steps of a fairtrade standard would be relatively inexpensive for the companies, and would certainly quickly produce a more ethical and "fair trade" brand image. Consumers and investors might then perhaps find ways to reward such fair play practices with their patronage, as they have elsewhere done for coffee, for cocoa, the products sold by Oxfam, etc. Back to homepage or introduction
5. This website provides information on the spread of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia and the "bridging" of infection that takes place in Siem Reap, among 400,000 arriving tourists, sex workers, "beer promotion women", local men, their wives, newborn infants, orphan children, etc. In urban Siem Reap, 6.8% of pregnant women randomly sampled in 2002 (HHS, 2002) , and 35% of pregnant women seeking free (VCT) voluntary HIV/AIDS counselling and testing (Jan.-July, 2003) tested seropositive for HIV/AIDS. Young beer-promotion sales women in Siem Reap (and nationwide) have averaged about 20% seropositive (HSS,1998-2002; VCT, 1998-2003) during the past 5 years. We will document any improvements that beer companies are making towards meeting the workplace safety, health and economic needs of their sales staff and any progress shown towards meeting the community criteria for 'fair trade' or 'ethical' commercial practices in Cambodia. Back to introduction
6. Many competing players in the highly profitable beer (and related spirits) industry already know about the plight of their "beer girls" yet prefer inaction in the face of what is becoming a repeated sequence: 20% of their female work-force gets sick, dies within 2 years, and are simply replaced by young newcomers from the countryside, mostly illiterate and often with less than 1-hour of job training. Despite prodding from the press in several countries, from NGOs and researchers, many companies fail to take the simple proactive steps needed to preserve the lives of their "throw-away workers" (as one "beer girl" described her colleagues in a July, 2002 interview.) . Currently, no beer company has wanted to be the first to do this in Cambodia. Each arranges its business practices so that the women are not treated as "employees" or "workers", but as "advertising expenses", like the throwaway posters and coasters. Back to introduction