Cambodia has identified 3,000 unlicensed doctors—after one gave hundreds of patients HIV

Better than reused syringes.
Better than reused syringes.
Image: Reuters/Chor Sokutnhea
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Cambodia’s health ministry announced that it had cracked down on 3,000 doctors and 200-plus dentists who have been operating without a license.

An HIV outbreak in the Battambang province last year prompted the crackdown. More than 240 villagers were infected in the outbreak caused by Yem Chrin, an unqualified and unlicensed doctor who admitted to regularly reusing syringes.

Chrin was well respected as a local doctor who “possessed healing powers” and provided cheap services to the poor, a police chief told Reuters. ”He used the same syringes again and again… and he even let villagers owe him the money for the services,” the police said.

The incident marred the progress the nation has made against AIDS. Between 2005 and 2013, new HIV infections dropped by 67% to 1,300, according to UNAIDS, which partnered with the health ministry in the recent investigation. And more than two-thirds of the 75,000 people living with HIV in Cambodia have access to antiretroviral therapy.

Cambodia’s medical industry was decimated by the Khmer Rouge decades ago, which helped lead to a proliferation of self-taught doctors. In rural areas, especially, poor villagers have few other options. World Bank figures show the country has only 0.2 physicians for every 1,000 people—lower than Sudan, Nigeria, or Myanmar.