Health insurance barriers for HIV patients discussed hinh anh 1People living with HIV/AIDS arrive at healthcare centre for ARV treatment and consultation (Source: VNA)
HCM City (VNA) - Health experts discussed ways to tackle barriers and find solutions to provide social health insurance (SHI) to people living with HIV (PLHIV) at a workshop on August 30 in HCM City.

The event was jointly organised by the Vietnam Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS with support from the HCM City Provincial AIDS Centre (HCMC PAC) and the US Agency for International Development through its Sustainable Management of the HIV/AIDS Response and Transition to Technical Assistance project implemented by FHI 360.

The workshop opened with testimonials from PLHIV, who revealed the challenges they faced with respect to enrolment in SHI to obtain coverage for HIV treatment.

At the event, participants debated ways to overcome the challenges and to mobilise PLHIV to enroll in social health insurance. The workshop kicked off a series of events that focused on SHI access and utilisation among PLHIV that will culminate in a “Red Ribbon” event at the end of the year.

Representatives of the PLHIV community identified the cost of enrolling their families in social health insurance, the lack of a registered permanent residence and identity cards and the fear of disclosure of their HIV status as key barriers to SHI enrollment.

“The HCMC PAC will put all its effort to sustain 30,000 HIV patients currently undergoing HIV antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. We will work closely with the Vietnam Social Security to mobilize resources and overcome the barriers to enrollment,” said Doctor Van Hung, head of Treatment Management Department, HCM PAC.

“The lessons learned from HCMC can be shared with other provinces encountering similar situations,” Hung added.

According to HCMC PAC statistics, as of June 2016, only 10,544 PLHIV, or 36 per cent of all ARV patients, in HCMC have health insurance cards. Moreover, just over a third of those PLHIV who have health insurance cards have used them to obtain HIV services. One out of every three Vietnamese HIV patients lives in HCM City.

ARV drugs are an effective solution to safeguard the health of people living with HIV and to protect communities from the spread of the epidemic, as ARV treatment can reduce viral loads to negligible levels. According to the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control’s statistics, up till the end of June, there were over 110,000 patients being treated with ARV drugs nationwide.

Until now, ARV treatment has been made available free of charge due to international donor support. However, with Vietnam emerging as a “middle income developing country,” donors have begun phasing out assistance, mandating SHI to cover and sustain the delivery of HIV treatment services. The Government of Vietnam aims to enroll at least 80 per cent of all people in social health insurance by 2020.-VNA