A programme to provide early anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment to people with HIV is likely to be piloted in Ho Chi Minh City next year, a city health official said.

It will target people with a CD4 cell count (the number of white blood cells in a cubic millimetre of blood) of 350-500.

Le Truong Giang, chairman of the city Public Health Association was quoted by Sai Gon Tiep Thi (Sai Gon Marketing) newspaper as saying that at present, HIV-positive patients only start treatment when the CD4 count falls to 350 except in certain cases like pregnant women and children.

While the treatment is now free, under the proposed programme patients would have to pay around 7,000 VND (0.3 USD) per day, he said.

The plan will be submitted to the city People's Committee and the Ministry of Health for approval this year.

If approved, implementation would begin early next year, according to Giang.-VNA