Believe me or not? My now husband was so surprised when I talked about blood test before marriage, and he responded ‘What a weirdest thing I have come up with’. Having blood test before marriage has never been a law or custom for Cambodia at all. However, this norm started in 1991 since HIV first detected in Cambodia. A different story was told when I was young that it started when UNTAC stepped into Cambodia. It was an economic boom conditions resulting from the stability following Paris Accords 1991.
HIV/AIDS in Cambodia: HIV and AIDS are easily confusing as they always go together. To make it clear, HIV is virus and AIDS is a condition. While Cambodia is known as the country with highest infection rate of HIV/AIDS in Asia with an estimation of 20,000 of AIDS death and 180,000 of HIV infection. It increased steadily from 1991 to 1998 by 2 percent. The main causes to this epidemic are the low income society experience rapid growth and the particular sexual behaviour patterns. Though the HIV/AIDS rate continue decreasing until recent (with preventions and education) but the number in data tend to remain high.
Family is considered as foundation. We Khmer value so much on family, and we strongly attach to our extended family members, closed neighbours and friends. Each person commonly has certain lifelong expections including roles and responsibilities toward family. ‘REAP BEFORE YOU SOW’ also known in Khmer as ‘TVER SRAE OY MERL SMAO, TOK DAK KON CHAO OY MERL PAO SANDAN’ is commonly popular proverb that is quite practical among elderly people to cautiously look into their children’s future partners in order to avoid any disappointments in relationship. The elders will look at their children’s partner’s behaviour, responsibilities, and family history.
The blood test is not only done to check just HIV/AIDS but also Tuberculosis (TB) or Hep. A and B. After children’s partners are thoroughly pass all elders’ criteria, they will be asked to do blood testing. Therefore, since 1991 onward, negative blood test result means you are passing the final stage of proposal and ready to get marriage approval.
Until today, the blood test may be optional to some families. Therefore, don’t be surprised in case you propose to one of any Khmer ladies and will be asked to do blood test. I don’t think now people will strictly adhere this sort of norm anymore, and hopefully Covid won’t make a new norm to marriage approval.