As funds from international sources for HIV/AIDS prevention have declined, patients need to buy health insurance to cover treatment, a spokeswoman for HCM City's HIV/AIDS Prevention Committee has said.

At a workshop held on September in HCM City, Tieu Thi Thu Van, head of the committee, said State budget funds fell short of the need, although annual funds set aside by the city authority had increased by 20 percent. However, that funding met less than 10 percent of the need.

Facing such a shortage of funds, maintaining the number of staff as well as the quality of HIV/AIDS prevention would be difficult, she said.

Nearly 600 new HIV-infected pregnant women receive treatment each year. As a result, nearly 200 children are protected from HIV each year.

Last year, the city treated 16,000 patients with anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment; the number has increased to 21,000. Thanks to foreign funds, these patients have received ARV treatment free of charge.

If patients bought health insurance, part of their ARV treatments would be subsidised, Van said, adding that the city has set a goal of having 45 percent of HIV-infected patients covered by health insurance next year.

Many patients, however, are reluctant to buy insurance because they must co-pay the ARV treatment fee, according to Van.

Local funds from the State budget and aid from social organisations were two other sources of support that were being considered.

In August, nearly 950 people nationwide were diagnosed with HIV, according to the Ministry of Health.

It raises the total number of people who have been diagnosed with HIV in Vietnam to 259,000, of which 54,000 were fatal cases. There are currently 105,600 people in the country living with AIDS.-VNA