Battambang provincial authorities have ordered nine unlicensed doctors to shut down their home-care practices in the province, including six in Sangke district’s Roka commune, where more than 230 residents have tested positive for HIV over the past three months.
Officials have blamed the outbreak on a single unlicensed doctor, Yem Chrin, who admitted to regularly reusing syringes and faces life in prison on murder charges. A government-led survey found that the virus was most likely spread through injections and intravenous drips.
Provincial governor Chan Sophal said on Sunday that since Mr. Chrin was jailed on December 22, at least nine unlicensed doctors in Battambang have been identified and ordered to cease their operations.
“We stopped about nine unlicensed doctors who do not have the skills and technical abilities in Battambang province,” said Mr. Sophal, adding that the investigation into Mr. Chrin was ongoing.
Mr. Sophal declined to comment further, but Voeung Bunreth, director of the provincial health department, said six of the nine unlicensed health care workers worked in Roka commune.
“We found six unlicensed doctors who visited patients to inject and treat them at their homes in Roka commune, and we ordered them to stop this work,” Mr. Bunreth said.
The ministries of health and interior launched a joint initiative earlier this month to rid the country of unlicensed medical operations, which are often cheaper and easier to access than state-run facilities.
Tith Khimuy, project director for Khana, an HIV prevention and support NGO that has been aiding Roka residents, said the seven unlicensed doctors in the commune—including Mr. Chrin—who have been targeted by authorities rarely did real medical work.
“They are not doctors,” he said. “They just go to treat the villagers by giving injections.”
But Dr. Khimuy said the infected villagers in Roka commune have placed the collective blame for the outbreak on Mr. Chrin, with the other unlicensed doctors there mostly avoiding scrutiny.
The government’s survey, which was completed last month, did not seek to identify individuals responsible for spreading the virus.
As part of the government’s piecemeal response to the outbreak, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany, president of the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), visited the HIV-hit commune on Friday.
Roeun Ray, the wife of deputy commune chief Soeum Chhom, who is among those who have tested positive for HIV, said that she and other residents affected by the outbreak were given rice, noodles, mosquito nets, towels and about $25 by Ms. Rany.
Ms. Ray called for continued assistance from the CRC as the families deal with the day-to-day costs of caring for loved ones with HIV.
“I request to the Cambodian Red Cross, please help me and other people who contracted HIV with food supplies and some money to support our lives each month, because we cannot do the work we used to do,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)