13th HIV case detected in Mekong Delta commune

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Another HIV case was detected in a tiny Mekong Delta commune where 12 men have already tested positive for the deadly virus, according to the Ben Tre Province HIV/AIDS Prevention Center.

A 60-year-old man, identified only by his initials P.V.O., is the 13th HIV patient in Mo Cay Nam District's Ngai Dang Commune, announced the center on Friday.

According to the center, O. felt ill and went to the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City where he tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

So far, Vietnamese doctors have been unable to determine why and how 12 men from the same Mekong Delta commune contracted HIV.

Dr Tran Tan Dat, director of the Ben Tre Province center, told Voice of Vietnam (VOV) radio last month that there was no solid evidence proving how the men in Ngai Dang acquired the virus.

Most of them have had HIV for at least five years and four of them are now showing signs of full-blown AIDS. Dat also rejected allegations made by the men that Do Van Be, a retired nurse who runs an unlicensed medical clinic at his house in Phu Dang Hamlet, gave them HIV through his needles. Dat said the claim was "baseless." 

The earliest any of the 12 men had received injections at Be's clinic was two years ago, though they have had HIV for at least five years, Dat said. He also argued that Be had provided injections for dozens, if not hundreds, of men, women and children who have not acquired the virus.

The commune attracted public attention after local media ran stories in May about the 12 male residents, aged 20 to 62, who were all found carrying HIV.

The case came to light when Nguyen Van Chien, 58, went to a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City for kidney treatment in January and was told he had HIV, according to Tien Phong newspaper.

After returning home, Chien assumed that he had contracted the virus via injections from Be, the retired nurse. He informed other villagers of the news and they went to hospitals in HCMC and Ben Tre Province to have their blood tested.

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Eleven other men tested positive for the virus, six of them from one family Huynh Van Hong, his two sons, two nephews and a cousin.

The Ben Tre Province AIDS Prevention Center then conducted tests on 31 residents in Ngai Dang, and the results once again confirmed that the 12 men had HIV.

The men insisted that they did not use drugs or have sex with anyone but their wives, all of whom have tested negative for the virus.

The men blamed Be for re-using needles on them, but the retired nurse denied the charge, saying he uses disposable syringes.

According to some doctors, the number of HIV patients in Ngai Dang may be even higher than 13 as many residents have not tested for HIV, and some who may have tested positive may not have publicized the results.

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