Over 100 people in  Battambang province in Cambodia have been infected with HIV.
Over 100 people in Battambang province in Cambodia have been infected with HIV.Reuters File

A Cambodian unlicensed doctor, who infected 140 patients with HIV by reusing needles and syringes, has been charged with murder.

On 9 December, authorities detected a mass HIV epidemic, after they started tests in a community in Battambang province and found that children as young as two and people in their 80s had contracted the virus.

The rice farming community of Roka in northwestern Cambodia has so far seen 140 people test positive for the deadly virus in the past month, an Al Jazeera report notes.

The authorities were alerted about a possible mass HIV epidemic in the village after a 74-year-old man tested positive in November and started convincing others who had also visited the same practitioner to get tested.

Yem Chrin, 55, a local village doctor is said to have undergone basic medical training in 1980s from working in refugee health camps.

"We charged him with spreading the HIV virus to others, brutal murder and operating a medical service without a license," Nuon San, the provincial court's chief prosecutor, told Reuters.

Yem Chrin has admitted that he routinely re-used syringes.

The case is a blow to Cambodia's effort to cut the rate of HIV infections after the virus spread almost uncontrollably in the impoverished country during the 1990s. The country was striving towards having no new cases of HIV by 2020.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen was so taken aback by the the mass HIV infections in Roka that he gave a speech on Thursday saying he simply did not believe it was true, while also announcing a full investigation.

"It is not that we do not believe in our doctors and our equipment, but it is hard to believe," he said. "I do not believe it."