Around 12,500 children in the northwestern mountainous province of Son La are at risk of contracting HIV, according to the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Most of the children come from families with one or both parents or other relatives having HIV or using drug.

The province authorities currently monitor and provide free treatment for 156 children infected with HIV. However, many children of high risk are living in remote mountain areas and experience great difficulties in accessing health care services.

Dam Van Huong, Director of Son La Prevention HIV/AIDS Centre, said around 400 new HIV-infected cases are reported in the province each year, posing serious challenges for the provincial medical management and health care services.

According to the centre, in December 2013, the province had 8,782 HIV carriers, of whom 3,000 had developed full-blown AIDS. It ranks second in the country in terms of HIV infection rate, just after Ho Chi Minh City.

Son La also has over 15,000 heroin addicts, who are at high risk of contracting HIV.-VNA