PrEP allows people who do not have HIV but are at substantial risk of infection to prevent HIV by taking a pill every day (Source: nld.com.vn)

HCM City (VNA) – The Ministry of Health’s Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control on June 12 delivered the first free pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine to people with high risk of HIV exposure in Ho Chi Minh City.

This is part of a programme to deliver the medicine at private medical facilities, marking an important milestone in the engagement of private clinics in HIV/AIDS prevention and control efforts in Vietnam.

Galant general clinic was the first private facility to involve in the programme. From June 2019, PrEP, funded by the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – (PEPFAR), will be provided to the community.

PrEP allows people who do not have HIV but are at substantial risk of infection to prevent HIV by taking a pill every day, as part of a combination HIV prevention strategy. When taken correctly, the treatment would reduce the risk of HIV infection via unsafe sex by 90 percent or via injection drug use by 70 percent.

The service helps ease the dependence on physical measures to prevent HIV transmission such as condom or safe syringe.

Earlier on May 22, a facility providing PrEP for HIV prevention was inaugurated at the Hanoi Medical University Hospital.

Currently, Vietnam has 230,000 people living with HIV, 20 percent of whom are in Ho Chi Minh City.

It is alarming that while HIV infections are reduced significantly in groups with high risks such as drug addicts (from 29-30 percent to 9-10 percent) and sex workers (from 5 percent to 3.4 percent), the rate is rising in the group of men having sex with men (from 7.4 percent to 11.4 percent), according to 2018 statistics.

It is estimated that Vietnam has around 174,000 men having sex with men (MSM) aged from 15-49, including over 30,000 in Hanoi (or 17.5 percent).

PrEP was first piloted in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2016. The Ministry of Health made it part of the direction for HIV/AIDS care and treatment in 2017 and passed a plan to roll out the service for the 2018-2020 in 2018 with the provision of free antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment.

At present, over 2,000 people are using the service.

As scheduled, nine cities and provinces will supply the service in 2019, and the figure will be raised to 11 in 2020, with the goal of having 7,300 users.

Vietnam is the second country in Asia to launch PrEP service nationwide, after Thailand. -VNA