HIV-positive farmer Pao Vanara (L) collects water with his wife at his home in Kampong Bay district, Kampot province. Vanara has been getting ARV drugs from the state-run Kampot Referral Hospital but says he would prefer to be treated by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Takeo because of reportedly better care and more available medicine at the NGO operation.
Kampot – People Living with
HIV/AIDS in Kampot province say doctors at the provincial referral hospital
discriminate against them and often fail to provide adequate life-prolonging
medicines to patients.
But while government and
hospital officials confirm there may be problems at Kampot Referral
Hospital, they also say
both doctors and patients should show more tolerance for one another.
Mean Chhi Vun, director of
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS), said the Ministry
of Health as well as NCHADS believe the proper policies are in place.
The government has enough
drugs in stock and is responsible for providing them to all patients
countrywide, he said.
Cambodia has 67,000 registered HIV patients, of which about
30,000 need drugs.
Chii Vun said the first time
HIV patients at the hospital see a doctor they are given pills for one to two
weeks. This is so they will return for a follow-up visit to determine whether
they have had a reaction to the pills.
"The patients have to use the
pills properly and regularly,” Chhi Vun said. "Most of the patients are still don’t
understand how the pills should be used so they need a clear explanation from
the doctor. Otherwise the pills given will be useless.”
He said doctors from all
provincial hospitals received trained in how to treat and deal with HIV
patients. The training covered 180 hospital staffs from 24 cities and
"They have a lot of other
work, but they devote time to work for people living with HIV/AIDS,” he said.
"It would be better if they
(doctors and patients) showed more tolerance to each other,” he added.
Several Kampot patients told
the Post said that nurses and doctors
at the Kampot hospital make them wait hours to get their medicine, then pay no
attention beyond handing out pills. They said staff never check their
temperatures. Sometimes there are not enough pills.
Prak Sovan, 37, HIV positive
since 2006, said that when he goes to pick up his pills, doctors require him to
wear a face mask or a plastic bag and they often are rude to him.
He said sometimes they do not
have enough tablets and he has to go to a pharmacist instead. Other times they
only give him enough for one or two weeks, which means he has to make the long
trip back and forth often.
Another patient, Nhem Sokunthea, 27, said,
"Patients never receive a medical check up to see whether they are improving or
worse off after receiving the pills.”
Services in Kampot are
provided by the NCHADS.
In Takeo, the services are
supported by NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres Belgium.
Pao Vanara, 44, who was
infected when he went to work in Thailand, said he would like to
switch to Takeo, "but "I do not have money as it is quite far.”
Koy Chanthou, coordinator of the
Children and Women Development Center
who deals with HIV patients in Kampot, said many patients prefer services in
Takeo province because the doctors at Takeo pay more attention to them and
provide better quality medicine.
She said the organization has
received complaints from patients in Kampot and has proposed that Kampot
hospital give patients more pills and that doctors there show more respect to
Nguon Sreymom, coordinator of
a Kampot support group for those with HIV, said about 200 patients are
hospitalized in Kampot with HIV, and more than 500 HIV patients in the province
are receiving antiretroviral drugs.
Most of them live in remote
areas so it is difficult for them to get services, he said.
Dr Yim Sambath at Kampot
hospital defended the practice of asking patients to wear a face mask because
it protects hospital staff, he said.
Sambath said hospital staff
do not discriminate against HIV patients, but added, "We do not have enough
staff so we cannot favor all patients.”
Mong Thuch, deputy director
of Kampot referral hospital, defended the hospital’s dispensation of the pills.
"We have teams who consult
with patients before giving them [ARV] pills,” Thuch said. "The hospital gives
the pills to about 15 patients a day.”