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New tests confirm B’bang HIV breakout

Laboratory results yesterday confirmed 119 cases of HIV among samples collected and re-tested from a Battambang province community riddled with the virus, a day after Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was “99 per cent” sure initial test results were incorrect.

Of the 92 samples tested by the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh on Thursday night and 27 tested yesterday, all came back positive for HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, said Dr Francois Rouee head of the institute’s HIV unit.

“There’s no doubt they are infected with HIV1,” Rouee told the Post yesterday. “Yesterday night we did 92 samples, all of them were positive . . . we’ve done 27 samples today, and they’re all positive.”

Confirmation of the samples comes after the discovery of a surge of HIV cases in Battambang’s Sangke district.

Villagers in Sangke district have alleged that Yem Chroeum, a purportedly unlicensed doctor, may have spread the disease by administering injections to at least 30 people there with needles that were possibly unsterilised.

But National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control director Mean Chhivun yesterday said that at this stage it is not clear whether Chroeum is responsible for spreading HIV.

“We will continue the investigation because we cannot assume quickly that it’s all because of this guy or that guy,” Chhivun told the Post yesterday.

Chhivun, who on Thursday said he “could not say” if the initial round of tests were positive, yesterday refused to comment on whether the Pasteur Institute’s findings had proven the villagers in Sangke district are infected with HIV.

Rouee, meanwhile, said that more investigation must be done to find the origin of the outbreak, which has seen people as young as three and as old as 82 infected.

“What is important is to know when the patients were contaminated and if there are different sources of contamination . . . maybe there are several sources of contamination. It needs much more laboratory analysing; it should take weeks,” Rouee said, adding that even that may not provide an answer.

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