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HIV village demands access to healthcare

Members of a community in Battambang where an unlicensed doctor allegedly infected more than 200 people with HIV earlier this year have demanded free general healthcare, a provision usually reserved only for the country’s most poor.

Speaking at a forum in Battambang’s Roka commune yesterday, which was attended by local health officials, community members demanded health cards guaranteeing free treatment for any ailment to help mitigate the effects of HIV, which weakens the immune system.

“We might not meet the [poverty] criteria of people that get this card, but we have difficulty living with HIV, and other diseases are easy to contract, so they must be treated,” said Chunh Phoeuy, 39.

According to Phoeuy, the temporary card she now has only arrived after she took her baby, who is HIV-positive, to a hospital in Battambang city for measles treatment and protested over a $20 bill she could not pay. Other victims of the HIV outbreak remain without such coverage, she said.

Battambang provincial Health Department Deputy Director Sou Phanith said the cards had been made available to those infected in the outbreak in April, with around half of victims now possessing them.

However San Sokhat, a coordinator for People Living with HIV/AIDS Network in Battambang, said many victims had no idea of their entitlement and more effort should be made to communicate the message.

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