. Cambodia The Beauty & the Beast Cambodia is a beautiful country blighted by the HIV/AIDS virus.   By Damian Bird Photo by Damian Bird Cambodia
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Very sadly these seven young women can be seen here in a brothel working as prostitutes. It is all too often the story that girls as young as these find themselves getting by as sex workers earning as little as half a US doller per client. Safety is not always put first and many such sex workers in Cambodia have HIV and AIDS. The mother and father of this family unit have AIDS and the children are very fearful of what will happen to them when their parents die. The father contracted HIV from having unprotected sex with a prostitute in Phnom Penh. A mother of two lies dying of full blown AIDS. Her husband who gave her the virus is dead already. Her two children will have to live with her eighty year old father. The men in these two photographs are paying these young women for sex during their time in Cambodia. This fragile woman has AIDS and is using every bit of strength that she has to remain upright. She contracted HIV from her husband who caught it from unprotected sex with a prostitute. These students are learning how to put on condoms as part of a sex education class to protect them from AIDS. These two Buddhist monks are teaching children about safe sex and the risk of AIDS. Two Buddhist monks enjoying some relaxation, Phnom Penh. Young Buddhist monks enjoying the evening sun a few miles outside of Phnom Penh. A family and their new puppy enjoying a meal together. Phnom Penh. The front room. This young girl lost both of her parents to AIDS. At the barber shop. Phnom Penh. Two open air marriage ceremonies. Phnom Penh. When sophisticated pleasures are thin on the ground one must find pleasure in the simpler things. Mud is a good camouflage! Fishing. Phnom Penh. Cambodians are either working, sleeping or eating. A very sensible and pragmatic approach to life. Tooth decay. Shellfish for sale. Why have four wheels when two will do. Due to Cambodia’s war torn past very sadly many have fallen prey to land mines and rely heavily on charity to get by. A family home in a rural village ten miles outside Phnom Penh. Fresh fruit for sale from a very relaxed salesman. A coconut delivery vehicle. Bath time. This boy’s father has died from AIDS contracted from sleeping with a 50 cent prostitute in Phnom Penh which he unwittingly gave to his wife. His wife, the boys mother, is now lying critically ill at home. The boy is here photographed with his grandfather who is now his only source of care. Nothing was to prepare me for the beauty of Cambodia.  By contrast I was deeply saddened to find young women forced into prostitution through circumstance and poverty and the HIV/AIDS virus spreading rapidly, leaving orphans in its wake.