Baby Girl Among Latest to Test Positive for HIV

A 4-month-old girl is one of the latest residents of Battambang’s Roka commune to test positive for HIV as the number of people infected with the virus continues to climb, a local official said Monday.

More than 200 of the roughly 1,700 people living in the commune in Sangke district have now tested positive for HIV at the local health center since preliminary testing began early this month.

The cause of the outbreak remains unknown, although officials have pinned the blame on Yem Chrin, an unlicensed doctor who regularly treated villagers using injections and admitted to reusing syringes on multiple occasions. The Battambang Provincial Court last week charged Mr. Chrin with murder punishable by life in prison.

Deputy commune chief Soeum Chhom said several of his neighbors went to the commune health center Monday morning to get tested.

“Five people tested positive for HIV,” he said. “They include two old women, aged 81 and 83, a 4-month-old female baby and two men.”

Mr. Chhom added that three migrant workers from the commune who recently returned from Thailand were also found to be carrying the virus Monday, in addition to 17 migrants who tested positive after coming home since Thursday.

A team tasked with identifying the source of the outbreak—which is led by the Health Ministry’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD, and includes officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNAIDS, Unicef and the World Health Organization (WHO)—finished collecting data on Friday.

Masami Fujita, the WHO’s HIV team leader in Cambodia, declined to specify what questions were asked of the villagers but said all possible causes of HIV transmission were considered in the survey.

Dr. Fujita added that the team had not yet determined whether the outbreak could solely be attributed to Mr. Chrin, or whether a combination of factors—including sexual transmission and mother-to-child transmission—are to blame.

“That is the question all of us have,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)

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