Cambodia HIV mass infection: At least 90 villagers test positive for virus

UNAIDS has launched an epidemiological investigation

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At least 90 villagers in a small community in Cambodia have been diagnosed with HIV in a mass-infection, a third round of test results have revealed.

Dr Didier Fontenille, director of the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, said samples taken from people living in the Roka commune in Battambang province tested positive this week.

"It has been confirmed three times by different techniques. Around 90 [people] have tested positive," Dr Fontenille told Al-Jazeera.

Dr Fontenille said the next step will be to determine when people were infected.

On Thursday, Teng Kunthy, head of the Health Ministry's HIV/AIDS centre, said 106 people out of more than 800 tested in the Roka village were found to have the virus.

The cause of the infections remain unknown, but reports in local media say a medical practitioner who had previously treated some of those who contracted HIV was taken into protective custody by police after threats from angry villagers.

The United Nations programme for the HIV and AIDS virus (UNAIDS) released a statement expressing its support for those infected by the virus.

In a statement, the agency said it is joining partners in supporting Cambodia’s Ministry of Health with a full epidemiological investigation and by taking “all necessary measures” to prevent further HIV infection.

It said: “UNAIDS is working with the authorities to ensure that anyone who may have been affected has access to essential HIV treatment, care and support services.

“UNAIDS is also working with the ministry to ensure that the rights and privacy of all people are upheld. It is essential that people living with HIV live with dignity and without fear of stigma and discrimination.”

It estimates that there are 75,000 people living with HIV in Cambodia, two-thirds of who have access to antiretroviral therapy.