Despair, Confusion and Anger After Cambodia HIV Outbreak

Roka outbreak has starkly reveals how dysfunctional Cambodia's public health system is in rural areas.

INDONESIA

Senin, 12 Jan 2015 11:16 WIB

Author

Borin Noun

Despair, Confusion and Anger After Cambodia HIV Outbreak

Cambodia, HIV, Roka community, unlicensed doctor, Borin Noun

In the Roka rice farming community many people called Yem Chrin the ‘God doctor’.

He was trusted and like. 

Em Mom, 40, said he allowed the poor farmers here to pay what they could, when they could.

“We trusted on him because he can help poor farmers like us. We are poor, we believed him. Now I considered like Evil doctor,” said Em Mom. 

15 of her relatives have tested positive for HIV virus. 

Yem Chrin was not a registered doctor.  He had medical knowledge came from his healthcare training in refugee camps in the 1980s.

And he has admitted to using the same needle on one or more patients- with devastating consequences.

40 year old Srey Phal is still in disbelief that his two children have tested positive to HIV.

“They have done nothing wrong; they are young children, why has the God doctor killed them! I never forget this. I use to always dream about my children’s future at night. Now I am not sleeping,” said Srey Phal. 

He is worried about their education and negative stigma against people with HIV.

Others say and there is so many people now infected with HIV in the area that it almost feels tragedy normal.

When news first spread Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen said he doubted the reports. 

In a speech he said ‘It’s hard to believe, I do not believe it.’

But the provincial court has taken action and issued three charges against unlicensed doctor Yem Chrin.

He is charged with one count of spreading HIV. Committing cruel murder and also charged with violating medical ethics.

He faces a maximum penalty of life in jail.

Chhun Heng, 61-year old, said he had two injections at Yem Chrin’s clinic and is now HIV positive.

“I want health experts to research how God doctor injected some many villages with HIV.  Did he come from other villagers or did he keep the virus in his clinic.  I want the trial against him to be fast,” said Chhun Heng.

He and the others in Roka commune have received a stream of VIP guests: Cambodia's Interior Minister and Minister of Health Mam arrived by helicopter and gave out donations of sarongs, bread and noodles.

Several members of a parliamentary commission on public health arrived in cars and addressed several hundred residents, promising to facilitate access to HIV testing and life-preserving antiretroviral treatment.

Koa Sovandara is a health and traumatism expert at Phnom Penh University: “We have to motivate them to tell them that they can live a happy life that this virus will not kill you quickly.

You can live a long time if you have good health and you use anti-retroviral drugs.”

HIV infection rate in Cambodia fell down from about 2 per cent of the population to less than 0.7 per cent over the last two decades.

But the Roka outbreak has starkly reveals how dysfunctional Cambodia's public health system is in rural areas with communities having to rely on unlicensed medical workers.

Pech Seam and her two children have test positive. She says she tells her daughters to keep going to school.

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