Rural Battambang has limited medical options. Source: Wikimedia
An unlicensed Cambodian doctor has been jailed for 25 years after being convicted of infecting more than 100 people with HIV.
Yem Chrin, 56, was convicted for infecting patients in northwestern Battambang province with HIV by reusing soiled syringes, the Phnom Penh Post reported.
Illegal doctors are often the only medical option in rural Cambodia.
The Ministry of Health estimates there are nearly 4,000 illegal medics operating in the country.
Rokar villagers, where Chrin worked, rushed to have their blood checked when the cases started to emerge in December 2014.
UNAids estimated that 76,000 people live with HIV in Cambodia with the country receiving praise for its work to tackle the virus.
New HIV infections dropped by 67 per cent from 3,500 in 2005 to 1,300 in 2013, UNAids reported.
Chrin’s charge was reduced from murder to manslaughter. He claimed he only trying to help the community.
The number of people infected range from more than 100 to more than 270. The deaths of 10 people, mostly elderly, have been attributed to the infections. One victim was apparently aged just two.
The authorities became aware of the infections after a 74-year-old man tested positive for HIV in November last year.
Chrin was arrested a month later. He admitted reusing syringes but denied he had intentionally spread the virus.
Provincial court judge Yich Na Chheavy said in the verdict: “The court found Yem Chroeum guilty of operating health treatment without a licence, injecting people with syringes that spread HIV and torturing people to die.”
His lawyer, Em Sovann, said: “My client still insists he is innocent. I will represent him if he wants to appeal this conviction.”
“I treated the people honestly,” Chrin told the court. “I did not have any intention to infect them with HIV, so I request the judge reduce my sentence because I need to meet with my children, my wife and my elderly mother…. I need to make money to feed my family.”
It was reported that Chrin had practised in the area since 1996 and police said he was well-respected doctor, with villagers believing he had healing powers and valuing his low charges.