Cambodian Women’s Development Agency

The Young Women’s Health Study

A collaborative a four-year longitudinal research project assessing sexual health and drug use in young women aged 15-29 years with multiple sex partners who are at risk for sexually transmitted infections.
CWDA has collaborated with the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs (NCHADS), University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and University of New South Wales (UNSW) to begin a four-year longitudinal research project which assessed sexual health and drug use in young women aged 15-29 years with multiple sex partners who are at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Target Group

220 young women (aged 15-29) at high risk of STIs, specifically HIV.

Data Collection

Data was collected at baseline and quarterly visits for 15 months. At these visits a structured questionnaires was administered verbally by trained interviewers in Khmer, which included socio-demographic characteristics, occupational and sexual risk history, alcohol and ATS use, HIV, PAS and pregnancy testing occurred at each visit and for STI infection at the 3 and 12 month visits.

Two weeks after each visit the women returned to the clinic where they received their test results. At each visit women were provided with both pre-test and post-test counselling. Women who received abnormal test results were provided with counselling and STI treatment was provided at no cost. Women who tested HIV positive were referred for free medical evaluation and treatment, were provided with counselling and were actively encouraged and supported in accessing healthcare services. For women who were found to be non-HIV positive, they were encouraged to continue to practice safe sex.

Vaccination and healthcare

At the three, six and nine month follow ups, the women were vaccinated against HPV. All women who tested positively for HIV were linked with a COC Clinic to receive healthcare. For women who received abnormal test results during the study, CWDA arranged follow-up tests and treatment.

Community Outreach work and counselling.

CWDA outreach workers visited the participants every week to monitor their health, living situation, to provide information on STDs, drug use and HIV prevention and encourage participants to utilise healthcare services. CWDA outreach workers also accompanied the women to the clinic for follow-up visits. Every month counsellors provided counselling for on average 30-40 participants either in their homes or in the women’s room in Toul Kork.


CWDA were invited to the NCHADs Symposium in Phnom Penh in December 2010 to present a talk on the communication strategies used between outreach workers and entertainment workers during the study. We believe that the YWHS has both demonstrated and strengthened the communication that we have with our beneficiaries and the results of the study will be used to advocate the rights of the participants and enhance their access to healthcare. The project showed that with appropriate induction and support, women are happy and willing to access health care. As such, it is possible to manage this target group’s health.

The project team was committed to young vulnerable women. We intend to ensure that outreach and advocacy continues for this high-risk group. Women that participated in the study are now better able to manage their own health. We anticipate future collaborative work with academic and civic partners in HIV prevention and care research. Having experience and completing the procedures of the study, the women feel comfortable to participate in other studies.

The most recent Young Women’s Health Study was published in the International  Journal of Drug Policy. If you would like to read the article please click here.

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