HIV-Positive Commune Official Dies in Battambang

A deputy commune chief in Battambang province’s Roka commune, where an outbreak of HIV has infected nearly 250 villagers, died Monday.

Soeum Chhom, 63, was one of 245 villagers to test positive for HIV since the outbreak was first detected in December.

As deputy commune chief, he was assigned to keep track of how many villagers had been infected with the virus, and frequently updated the media on these figures.

“My father died at about 4:15 p.m. today after he got seriously ill,” Chhom Hour, Soeum Chhom’s 34-year-old son, said Monday.

“He was taking anti-retroviral medicine and it prevented him from eating.” Mr. Hour said the medication’s side effects caused his father to become weaker and weaker.

He added that his father spent about a month receiving treatment at the provincial hospital, where doctors told him his father was also suffering from tuberculosis.

Mr. Hour returned home with his father in mid-March after giving up hope that doctors at the hospital could help him. Soeum Chhom is the seventh villager, including a baby, to die since the HIV outbreak was detected.

Officials have blamed the outbreak on Yem Chrin, an unlicensed doctor who admitted to regularly reusing syringes, and who has been jailed on murder charges.

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