By Prak Chan Thul
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian health authorities have found 212 villagers infected with HIV in a district where an unlicensed medic has been charged with murder on suspicion of spreading the virus with contaminated equipment.
Prosecutors charged the medic with murder last month after the spread of the virus that causes AIDS among scores of people came to light.
The 212 people with HIV were discovered after authorities tested a total of 1,940 people in the district in Battambang province in the northwest where the medic treated people.
The government and international health agencies including the World Health Organization and UN AIDS released their findings in a statement on Saturday but they did not mention the medic.
However, Health Minister Mam Bunheng urged health authorities to strictly follow protocols on the use of clean equipment and he vowed to eliminate new HIV infections by 2020.
"The Ministry of Health is ensuring health facilities to follow universal precautions and use clean and sterile equipment," Mam Bunheng said.
The medic, Yem Chrin, provided cheap health services to the poor and was believed to have possessed healing powers, police said.
The government and health organizations said there appeared to be a link between injections and HIV among the people they tested.
"The study showed that the percentage of people that reported receiving an injection or intravenous infusion as part of their health treatment was significantly higher among the people who tested positive for HIV than the people who were HIV negative," they said in their statement.
The case has been a blow to Cambodia's largely successful efforts against HIV infection after the virus first spread quickly through the impoverished country in the 1990s.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)