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Rash of HIV cases hit Kandal village

Cambodian health authorities are investigating a concentrated cluster of HIV cases, confirming 14 people from Peam village in Kandal province’s Muk Kampoul district have tested positive for the disease in the first two months of 2016.

“[Fourteen] people from Peam village came to Samdech Euv Hospital in Phnom Penh and found that they were infected with HIV,” Dr Ly Penh Sun, director of the National Center for HIV, AIDS, Dermatology and STDs (NCHADS) yesterday confirmed.

“We are aware of these cases and are investigating the problem.”

Serong Kea, a doctor and national program officer for HIV/AIDs with the World Health Organization, said yesterday that the agency had been consulting with health authorities about Peam village since the first cases emerged in January, though warned against calling it an outbreak.

“We are still investigating, it is not yet sure, maybe they are old cases, people who came to do HIV tests, but NCHADS will take the next step – this is not yet like Roka,” Kea said, referring to a mass outbreak in Battambang town’s Roka commune, discovered just over a year ago, where almost 300 people were infected by an unlicensed doctor’s use of tainted syringes.

Four people from Peam village, in Sambuor Meas commune, yesterday told the Post they had recently tested positive for HIV.

“I was shocked when I found out that I and my wife had tested positive,” said a local man, who declined to be named.

“I felt without hope, like I should just wait for my day to die, because this disease cannot be cured.”

The man and his wife, as well as two other people spoken to by the Post, claimed that a local doctor, who the Post has chosen not to name, was responsible for the spread.

“I always went there to get treatment, both injections and medicine … sometimes he injected me and sometimes it was his employees,” said Minh Sar, 73, also recently diagnosed as HIV positive.

Lying emaciated in her bed, Phath Sreynath, 63, said she was clueless about the origin of her disease.

“Before I drove the boat to the clinic, I did not believe that I had HIV, since I had not had sex for 10 years, but my skin began bleeding and I had other symptoms. I started to worry and therefore wanted to know whether I had it or not.”

Sreynath’s brother-in-law, who has not been infected, said there had been an unspoken-of trend of HIV-related deaths in the village, claiming his brother, 58, and niece, 34, both succumbed to the disease in the past two years.

“Both of [my relatives] when they were sick, they always went to that doctor.”

However, yesterday the doctor rejected the accusations, saying he used sterile instruments and practised in a clean environment.

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