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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HIV testing should continue: pol

A medic draws blood to test a man for HIV in Kandal province's Peam village last month.
A medic draws blood to test a man for HIV in Kandal province's Peam village last month. Hong Menea

HIV testing should continue: pol

Opposition lawmaker Ke Sovannaroth, head of the National Assembly’s health commission, has called upon the Ministry of Health to resume the offering of blood tests within Kandal’s Peam village, despite assurances that a cluster of HIV diagnoses discovered there does not constitute an outbreak.

Since the start of the year, 16 people have been diagnosed with HIV in the village of 1,039, initially sparking fears of a repeat of the 2014 Roka HIV outbreak that saw hundreds infected.

On February 22, in response to growing worries, the Health Ministry’s National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control offered testing at two sites in Peam, which 279 villagers attended, a group that yielded just four positive diagnoses.

The Health Ministry along with the WHO and UNAIDS have since declared that the cluster of diagnoses does not constitute an outbreak and have therefore ceased testing in the village.

Dr Laurent Ferradini, WHO Cambodia’s team leader on HIV, emphasised at the time that villagers still concerned they might have HIV had testing options available to them at a health centre 10 kilometres away. “There is not an outbreak, but we are still fighting HIV across the country and in Peam,” said Ferradini.

But Sovannaroth yesterday said she believed the Health Ministry had turned its back on the people of Peam.

“We have seen actions conducted by the ministry and all [its] efforts have not been put into it yet,” Sovannaroth said yesterday, adding that she urged the ministry to continue testing within the village and investigate the source of the infections.

WHO’s Ferradini said yesterday that an investigation into the source of the infections was ongoing, but that it may prove fruitless as many of those diagnosed were infected several years ago.

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