The Joint United Nations Team on HIV in Vietnam on May 20 announced that Vietnam would be the first country to pilot Treatment 2.0 - a new generation of HIV treatment that it said could radically cut AIDS-related deaths and help prevent new HIV infections.

The pilot would be launched later this year in two of Vietnam's provinces with the heaviest HIV rates of infection.

Treatment 2.0, a joint initiative between the World Health Organisation and the Joint United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), included a more optimised drug regime for people living with HIV, cheaper and simpler diagnostic tools and a low-cost community-led approach to delivery.

"In comparison to the previous platform, Treatment 2.0 is simple, quick, flexible and efficient. For example, by changing the way we do HIV testing from a very complex and delayed process to a same day rapid test results, this quickly refers people at need to treatment," doctor Fabio Mesquita, head of HIV Unit at WHO Vietnam told Vietnam News on May 9.

"With this treatment platform, prevention and care will work together as opposed to the traditional dichotomy between these two responses. It engages people in early treatment which will save money for treating infections, hospitalisation and will also help in prevention – early treatment is proven to diminish the risk of spreading HIV," he elaborated.

Doctor Mesquita said Vietnam was doing well so far in its response to HIV, however with the current approach it would never get to the coverage and efficiency needed to halt the epidemic.

According to UNAIDS estimates, some 254,400 people were living with HIV in Vietnam, a majority of them were drug users, men who had sex with men and female sex workers.

WHO observed that Viet Nam's response to HIV had successfully scaled up access to treatment in the past five years, as 54 percent of the adult population in need had received anti-retroviral therapy.

However, most people living with HIV sought treatment too late when their immune system had weakened and opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis had set in. In these cases, treatment had proved less effective, resulting in increased deaths./.