A second Cambodian province has been devastated by what appears to be the country’s second HIV outbreak in as many years, prompting medical officials to begin tests to ascertain the scope and origin of the crisis.
The Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post reported Monday that 14 cases have been confirmed in Kandal province, which neighbors capital Phnom Penh, over the past two weeks.
Of the cases, 10 are from the same village.
Both reports quoted villagers as blaming a local medic for the spread of the virus.
The Post did not name the medic, pending an investigation, but the Daily identified him as Dr. Sok Thornn, who runs a private practice in addition to his role as the director of a district referral hospital.
In an interview with the Post, however, the medic was adamant that proper protocol has been used, insisting that there is “one syringe for each person,” which is then thrown away.
While health officials have yet to determine who or what is responsible for the new spate of HIV cases in the area, the allegations already being put forward by those affected are eerily similar to those made in Dec. 2014 in the northwestern province of Battambang.
In those instances, more than 270 people were infected with the virus by an unlicensed medic who had been reusing syringes on his patients.
He was handed a 25-year prison term a year after the outbreak was discovered, during which time the government also shut down 1,300 unlicensed clinics and vowed to close a further 900 this year.
Teng Kunthy, secretary-general of the National Aids Authority of Cambodia, told Anadolu Agency that he was in a meeting before hanging up the phone Monday.
Calls to Health Ministry spokesperson Ly Sovann and Mean Chhi Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS Dermatology and STDs, were also unsuccessful.
UNAIDS country director Marie-Odile Emond was in a meeting and could not be reached.