Vietnam is taking measures to expand health insurance coverage to more HIV/AIDS patients, as only 30 percent are currently covered.

These measures are part of efforts to gradually shift the payment of treatment fees from foreign-funded project and programme resources to the country’s health insurance fund.

The health sector is encouraging people living with HIV to go to local medical facilities where health insurance cards cover all of their treatment costs, instead of outpatient clinics.

Unfortunately, many patients are still avoiding visiting medical facilities near their homes over concerns that relatives, friends and neighbours will become aware of their HIV status and stigmatise them, posing a significant barrier to covered health insurance treatments.

To widen the health insurance coverage, experts propose applying health insurance card payments in outpatient clinics and HIV test centres under the Health Ministry’s Preventive Medicine Department, the preferred access sites for people living with HIV.

According to the Director of the general hospital of Tinh Bien district in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, Duong Hoang Dung, their outpatient clinic has been working as a facility of the general hospital since April of 2012, facilitating the acceptance of health insurance cards in outpatient clinics.

Currently, 415 out of the 542 known HIV/AIDS patients in the district have insurance cards, or an impressive 76.5 percent. Health insurance has also helped Tinh Bien reduce international project spending by roughly 60 million VND (2,820 USD) on check-ups and treatment.

Looking forward, the health sector plans to mobilise resources from the State budget to simplify access to insurance for people living with HIV, including subsidising part or all of the insurance card fees for those living near or below the poverty line.-VNA