Infections in Cambodian HIV outbreak rise to 212
Unlicensed doctor who treated many of those infected awaiting murder trial for using dirty needles

More than 200 people have now tested positive for HIV in an outbreak caused by the continued re-use of infected needles for a health jab in a community in northwestern Cambodia, it emerged Saturday.

According to a joint statement dated Friday but released Saturday by the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and Cambodia’s Ministry of Health, 212 people from Roka commune in Battambang province tested positive for HIV out of the 1,940 people who voluntarily underwent testing between Dec. 8 and 31.

"The investigation into the origins of the HIV cluster includes a case and control study. The study showed that the percentage of people that reported receiving an injection or intravenous infusion as part of their health treatment was significantly higher among the people who tested positive for HIV than the people who were HIV negative,” the statement said.

The Cambodia Daily reported in December that a 4-month-old baby is among those who have tested positive for the virus, while those in their 80s have also been found to be carriers. It also reported this week that the government is now carrying out a serious crackdown on unlicensed medical practices and practitioners.

An alert was raised after three family members—a 74-year-old man, his granddaughter and son-in-law—all tested positive in November.

Suspicions were aroused about the possible use of dirty needles by a local medical practitioner. Following an investigation, Yem Chrin, an unlicensed doctor who treated many of the people in Roka commune, was arrested in December. He is being held in prison awaiting trial on murder charges.

The joint statement included remarks from Cambodia’s Health Minister, Dr. Mam Bunheng, who said the government is now working on "raising awareness of safe injection practices and overall HIV prevention among the general public.”

The outbreak has proven to be a tragic setback in Cambodia’s efforts to significantly reduce the rate of HIV over the past few decades, and came a few weeks after a ceremony was held in Phnom Penh to laud the efforts of companies in raising awareness and curbing the spread among their staff.

According to the most recent UNAIDS figures available, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is 0.7 percent in people between the ages of 15 and 49.

The latest joint statement found that among the people who tested positive in Roka commune, 60 percent are between the ages of 15 to 59.

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Last Modified: 2015-01-11 17:58:43
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