Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘No HIV outbreak’ in Kandal village, say WHO, local authorities

‘No HIV outbreak’ in Kandal village, say WHO, local authorities

Peam villagers queue to sign up for blood tests earlier this week in Kandal province after a cluster of HIV cases was discovered in the village.
Peam villagers queue to sign up for blood tests earlier this week in Kandal province after a cluster of HIV cases was discovered in the village. Hong Menea

‘No HIV outbreak’ in Kandal village, say WHO, local authorities

Following consternation this week over the government’s decision to cease HIV testing in Peam village, health authorities released a statement yesterday seeking to allay any fears of an outbreak.

In January, five of 47 villagers tested by a local NGO returned positive results, with nine more receiving positive diagnoses soon after from a local hospital. This prompted broader testing by health authorities on Monday, which returned four positive results from a sample of 279 people.

Government authorities drew the ire of several local NGOs this week after they said that there would be no further testing in the village, despite two-thirds of the village remaining untested and a prevalence rate uncovered of just under 1.6 per cent. The national average is 0.6 per cent.

But the Ministry of Health yesterday released a joint statement with the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, stating that they had reviewed Monday’s test results and had found that “The data is not indicative of an HIV outbreak.”

WHO Cambodia’s team leader for HIV, Dr Laurent Ferradini, said yesterday that several factors have led to investigators to determine that it was not an epidemic.

Test results showed that infections had been spaced out over a long period of time; there were few new cases identified; and most importantly, he said, 112 children were tested and none had returned a positive result.

This was significant, he explained, as it indicated the low probability that transmission had occurred via re-used needles – as had been the case in Battambang province’s Roka commune in 2014, when almost 300 people were infected, many of them children.

“We are confident we don’t have to continue the systematic investigation,” he said.

“[But] It has to be clear that HIV testing is still available to villagers who want to know their status,” he added.

People would be directed to a health clinic 10 kilometres away, which he said “was far”, but “feasible”.

Meanwhile, Ly Penh Sun, director of the ministry’s National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control, who earlier in the week said that “those that don’t get exposed don’t need to test”, took a softer approach yesterday.

He said he was meeting with NGOs and development partners this week to consider ways to increase HIV awareness programs in the area.

With the threat of outbreak diminished, his department would not continue testing in the village, however, as it was more “sustainable” for people to go to the health centre.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring all people there; those people that think they may have been exposed,” he said.

But Choub Sok Chamreun, executive director of HIV NGO Khana, insisted there was a raft of “urgent” support services needed in Peam and greater collaboration with NGOs in the area, including trauma counselling and HIV awareness programs.

“Profiling the case urgently will also help the health authority, local authority and NGOs to further understand the route of transmission,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • State of emergency draft law set for NA

    A draft law aiming to place the Kingdom in a state of emergency amid the Covid-19 pandemic is set for a debate at the National Assembly (NA) after going through the Council of Ministers’ Standing Committee meeting led by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.