Phnom Penh: An unlicensed Cambodian doctor was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday after he was found guilty of infecting more than 200 people with HIV, including some who later died.

The case has shone a spotlight on the chronically underfunded  healthcare system in the impoverished nation where many have to rely on self-taught or unlicensed medics to receive treatment. Yem Chroeum, 55, was facing the prospect of life in prison but his murder charge was reduced by the court to a lesser manslaughter offence, his defence lawyer said. "My client still insists he is innocent," lawyer Em Sovann told AFP  by telephone after the verdict was announced. "I will represent him if he wants to appeal this conviction," he added. The rural doctor was convicted of infecting locals in the remote

village of Roka in western Battambang province by reusing dirty needles. For millions of Cambodians -- especially the poor and those in isolated regions -- unlicensed doctors are the only realistic healthcare option for everyday ailments. World Bank figures say Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest nations, has  just 0.2 doctors for every 100,000 people, on a par with Afghanistan. Similarly impoverished Myanmar has 0.4 per 100,000, while France

boasts 3.2 per 100,000.