Dirty medical care blamed for Cambodian HIV outbreak

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – At least 90 villagers in northwestern Cambodia have tested positive for HIV in an outbreak health officials are attributing to the possible reuse of hypodermic needles by a local health worker, local media reported Wednesday.

A flurry of tests was carried out in Roka, Battambang province, earlier this month when an elderly couple tested positive for the virus, the Cambodia Daily said.

Those affected are aged four to 80. Tests are still being conducted and the number of people infected is expected to rise.

Teng Kunthy, secretary-general of the National AIDS Authority of Cambodia, told the Daily that an investigation has focused on a doctor believed to have used the same needle repeatedly on different patients.

The news has been devastating in a country that has made strides over the past few decades to reduce its prevalence rate to just 0.7 percent in people between the ages of 15 and 49, according to the UN’s programe on HIV/AIDS.

Marie-Odile Edmond, country coordinator for UNAIDS Cambodia, told The Anadolu Agency the outbreak was unusual because it is so highly concentrated in one area. She said it was encouraging that people were getting tested.

She said: “We are aware of it and the national AIDS program is investigating what happened in terms of the outbreak and also taking care of the people, which means helping them to get tests in hospital and then also getting health checks to see how much the virus has affected their bodies.”

Edmond said it is imperative that “more attention is paid” to how remote health posts operate.

“If it is linked to unsafe injections, then it depends whether other villages have used that practice,” she told AA of the likelihood the virus may have spread further.

Emond said HIV is more infectious in its early stages and is easier to pass on to another person.

“If you have safe sex and safe injections, then there is less of a chance,” she said. “The more people who know earlier and get treatment, the better it is for them, their families and the public health system.”

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency