Donors have provided much-needed humanitarian aid to a community of HIV-positive families in Battambang province’s Roka commune, which has been hit by funding shortages stemming from civil society organisations (CSOs) having their funding cut during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Provincial health department deputy director Dr Sou Sanith told The Post that donors had contributed the necessities to 100 HIV-positive families in Roka commune of Sangke district. The packages included fish sauce, soy sauce, canned fish, rice, soap, washing powder and a small sum of money.
The donation was part of a contribution to the sub-national administration in community-based HIV response activities.
Sanith said the HIV-positive population in the region had been facing chronic shortages in basic necessities as a result of the pandemic.
Previously, they relied on donations to supplement income from their various business endeavours. But San Sory, a 32-year-old HIV-positive villager in Roka commune, told The Post that CSOs that ordinarily provide them with some money and food supplies had been suspended, with several permanently stopped.
She added that their livelihoods have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak as they were unable to engage in any business other than farming, with the risk of catching Covid-19 excluding them from most means of earning an income.
Sory said: “If [HIV-positive people] are not careful, once we are infected with Covid-19, there is no cure. So we do not dare to go out and do anything other than farming. Some of our rice yields we keep for food and to sell. Now we are facing a livelihood shortage.
“We are very happy to receive humanitarian assistance from donors at this time, because we really need it to get through life [during] this difficult period,” she added.
Lim Kim Seng, programme officer of the Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) programme at FHI360 Cambodia, said these donors are an indispensable part of helping those affected.
“In the past [before the pandemic], the families of HIV-positive villagers have already suffered, and now even more with Covid-19 and the Omicron variant. Their lives are even more difficult because they cannot go out to find anything [as they are immunocompromised]. They have no income, meaning not enough food,” he told The Post.
In 2014, it was discovered that 275 people, including 68 children, had contracted HIV as a result of injections administered by medical practitioner Yem Chrin since 1996.
The provincial court on December 3, 2015, sentenced Chrin to 25 years in prison on three charges: opening a medical facility without permission, atrocities related to murder and intentionally transmitting HIV to others.
According to Roka commune chief Sim Pov, 40 HIV/AIDS patients in Roka commune have died so far, while 275 people are currently living with HIV.
Pov said the pandemic had limited the provincial authorities’ capacity to assist the HIV-positive community.
“Since the Covid-19 outbreak, our authorities have not been able to provide [HIV-positive patients] with as much food as before, as it has to be shared with other families who are in need due to the Covid-19 impact as well,” she said.
According to a report from FHI360, over 5,000 HIV-positive people of all ages live healthy and productive lives in Battambang province due in part to comprehensive health services for people living with HIV. Patients have access to regular counselling and treatment at the province’s six health centres.
Four specialist children’s treatment centres have been set up since 2014. They are located in Battambang Provincial Referral Hospital, Roka Commune Referral Hospital, Moung Russey district Referral Hospital and Sampov Loun district Referral Hospital.