This article by Saut Sok Prathna is from VOD News, an independent news site from Cambodia, and is reproduced edited in Global Voices as part of an agreement to share content.
Yem Chrin's house, a local paramedic who is now serving a 25-year prison sentence, is abandoned in Roka commune, located in the Sangke district of Battambang, in Cambodia.
In 2015, a provincial court found him guilty of giving treatment without a license. Among many other accusations, Yem Chrin was found responsible, finally, for spreading the HIV virus among hundreds of villagers in 2014 when he reused dirty syringes.
For a time, the case had national and international attention, as it was gradually discovered that almost 300 villagers – from children to octogenarians, and monks from local pagodas – tested positive for HIV.
With the help came the help: guidance to learn to live with HIV, improvements in roads and local clinics, additional programs to help the education of children.
But five years later, life in the commune has been filled with silence and premature death. Ray *, is 66 years old and lives with HIV:
No one pays attention. No one thinks about us. I don't know why they don't care.
No one pays attention. No one thinks of us. I don't know why they don't care.
Saloeun, 34, said she and five relatives are HIV positive. She was weak and tired most days, and realized that it was difficult for her to remember things.
The children and the elderly in the commune needed more help, he said.
Some children have lost their mothers. They should be given support to continue their studies.
Some children have lost their mother. They should be given help to continue their studies.
Samoeun's 13-year-old son lives with HIV. His mother, 34, says he feels isolated because the family faced constant discrimination.
I'm so lonely. Don’t they want to recognize me? I don't want it to be like this.
I am very alone. You don't want to recognize me? I don't want it to be like that.
However, local officials said they were doing what they could for the commune. Su Sanith, deputy director of the provincial health department of Battambang, said the local government paid close attention to Roka's hardships although international and national aid had stopped coming.
When the outbreak of this disease happened, there was an increase in both national and international aid for them. But later on, it seems quiet.
When the outbreak of this disease occurred, there was an increase in national and international help for them. But then, everything looks silent.
Still, 95% of affected villagers received antiretrovirals, with just 10 people who migrated or stopped taking the medication, Sanith said.
Thirty-one of the 285 HIV positive villagers have died since the outbreak, he said, although most were over 60 years old. One child and three young people are also among the dead.
At least two new HIV cases were discovered, Sanith added.
Nguon Ratanak, provincial governor of Battambang, offered a newly paved road in the commune and improved its health center to turn it into a hospital with qualified doctors as evidence of government support.
They get (support) from the Red Cross and so on. The people are now less afraid because they understand how to take care of their health.
They receive (help) from the Red Cross among others. People are less afraid now because they understand how to take care of their health.
But for those who live in the Roka commune, decreasing levels of attention do not seem to be coupled with the difficulty of living with the disease every day. These days, it seems they have left them on their own, they said.
Samoeun, the mother of the 13-year-old boy, said he had to sell corncobs on his motorcycle and travel to Thailand to try to earn extra money for his son.
He has not seen government officials visit the area in more than a year, he said. A feeling of carelessness and bewilderment was turning into resentment.
“I don't want to be forgotten,” he said.
* Women's names have been kept in reserve.