First deaths in Cambodian HIV outbreak

PHNOM PENH – An elderly woman and seven-month-old baby are the first to die in an HIV outbreak allegedly caused by dirty medical needles in Cambodia, local media reported Friday.

The 73-year-old woman died on Jan. 22, shortly after beginning treatment for tuberculosis, while the baby girl passed away at a hospital in Siem Reap on Tuesday, suffering from bronchitis, Mean Chhi Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, told the Cambodia Daily.

The pair were both HIV positive and from Roka in northwestern Battambang province, where 234 people have tested positive for HIV since late November.

Chhi Vun told The Anadolu Agency the woman and infant are believed to be the first two fatalities related to the outbreak.

“From Jan. 1 up to today, the number of people tested is on average six people per day,” he said. “They come for testing by themselves. But compared to December there were many people coming. They are the only two who have died.”

Yem Chrin, an unlicensed medic who treated people in the area, was charged with murder charges last month. He is accused of passing on the virus through unsterilized equipment.

World Health Organization HIV team leader Dr Masami Fujita told AA the baby and woman were from a group of people who tested positive in December.

When asked if it was normal for a baby to succumb rapidly to the virus, he said: “This happens. I wouldn’t say its normal’. It’s not a rare case. Many children survive but we see these kinds of cases happen.”

Asked if the HIV patients were being treated with anti-retroviral medicine, he said the national guidelines for HIV treatment were being applied in Roka. “Some people are not eligible for treatment yet, like those having a high level of immunity, they have not started yet,” he said.

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