More than 160 infected in HIV outbreak in Cambodia
Investigation ongoing as unlicensed medic said to have infected villagers with dirty needles facing charges

More than 160 villagers in northwestern Cambodia have tested positive for HIV in an outbreak health officials are attributing to the possible reuse of hypodermic needles by a local health worker.

The Cambodia Daily quoted an official at the Roka commune in Battambang province Thursday as saying, "141 tested positive for HIV and in Ambeng Thnge village, more than 20 people tested positive.”

Explaining that the outbreak had impacted three of the commune’s villages, deputy chief Soeum Chhom said two children aged 6 and 7 tested positive in Tahen Muoy village.

On Monday, an allegedly unlicensed doctor accused of infecting the villagers by reusing dirty syringes was charged with murder.

Deputy Prosecutor Heng Luy told The Anadolu Agency that 55-year-old Yem Chrin had been charged with crimes including "murder, proceeded by torture,” running an illegal clinic and spreading HIV/AIDS.

The Cambodia Daily quoted Chhom as saying, "I think that the HIV virus was spread because of Yem Chrin’s treatment since almost all of the victims had been treated by him.”

Provincial Court Prosecutor Nuon San, however, told the Daily the case against the doctor is still under investigation.

If found guilty Chrin, who reportedly studied medicine in a refugee camp but was not licensed to practice, faces life in prison. It was not clear who the murder charge relates to.

During questioning in court Sunday, he admitted to using the same syringe on multiple patients when giving injections and taking blood samples, the Daily reported.

The practitioner has been in custody since Wednesday, a day after it was revealed residents in Roka village, including children, monks and elderly people, had tested positive for HIV.

The mass infection emerged when a 74-year-old man learned he had HIV in late November. When two other family members tested positive, he told other villagers to get tested.

Last week, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was widely criticized after he said he was "99 percent sure” the villagers did not have HIV, citing his skepticism over the quality of Cambodian testing equipment and questioning how children and the elderly could contract the virus.

Tests at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh have confirmed the villagers were infected.

The World Health Organization, UNAIDS, Unicef and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been assisting Cambodia’s Health Ministry to manage the outbreak.

Last Modified: 2014-12-25 10:19:23
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