Vietnam expands Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) service for HIV prevention hinh anh 1Nhan Ai hospital’s doctors give checks to AIDS patients (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA)
- Considering that there is currently no vaccine for preventing HIV, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) service is considered an effective solution to curb the spread of the HIV/AIDS disease.

Vietnam is one of a few countries in the world that have piloted PrEP service for HIV prevention through supplying ARV drugs since 2017. The pilot treatment has now been expanded to 26 provinces and cities nationwide.

The Ministry of Health plans to expand PrEP service to all localities across the country in the time to come.

According to Dr. Hoang Dinh Canh – Deputy General Director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, the HIV prevalence among drug addicts and female sex workers has decreased, while the HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) are on the rise, especially in urban areas.

The main reason behind the situation is the unsafe sexual behaviours in those groups, Canh said.

Considering that there is no vaccine for HIV prevention, the PrEP method using ARV drugs is considered an effective solution for those at high risk of HIV infection.

PrEP was recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been supplied in many countries for many years.

Although this method cannot replace a HIV vaccine, clinical trials and practical interventions around the world showed it is the simplest way to reduce the risk of HIV infection among MSM by more than 90 percent. Therefore, the WHO recommends that PrEP should be added to the combined HIV prevention service package for those at high risk of HIV infection.

From the effectiveness of PrEP in HIV prevention and the long-term benefit of using ARV drugs to prevent HIV infection for those that have not been infected with HIV, the department has piloted the provision of PrEP for MSM and TGW in the combined HIV prevention package in Ho Chi Minh City.

The pilot is expected to provide evidence and information on the feasibility of PrEP treatment in Vietnam, Canh said.

The Ministry of Health has planned to expand the supply of PrEP treatment service to high-risk groups at all localities nationwide, aiming to control and put an end to HIV/AIDS in Vietnam.

Vietnam expands Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) service for HIV prevention hinh anh 2Dr. Hoang Dinh Canh (Photo: VietnamPlus)

If a person with a high risk of HIV infection uses ARV drugs every day, the drugs will prevent them from becoming infected with HIV, Canh stressed.

ARV drugs used in PrEP contain Tenofovir. In Vietnam, PrEP drugs, which are being provided free of charge by programmes and projects, are those combined the Tenofovir and Emtricitabine (TDF / FTC).

When using the drug every day, the concentration of ARV drugs in patients’ blood can prevent the HIV virus from entering or multiplying in the body, thereby preventing HIV infections.

Studies have shown that PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission if it is taken every day, Canh said, however noting that if users do not follow the daily use, it will not be able to effectively prevent HIV transmission.

The Ministry of Health has given concrete instructions on those who should use PrEP, as not everyone in high-risk groups can use the treatment. Doctors’ checkups and consultations are needed before the treatment is administered to any one. 

PrEP was made part of the direction for HIV/AIDS care and treatment in 2017 and in 2018 the ministry approved a plan to roll out the service for 2018-2020 with the provision of free antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment.

During this expansion period, the Vietnam Administration for HIV/AIDS Control has coordinated with projects and organisations to make PrEP available at 43 private and state clinics in 11 provinces and cities. Over 2,000 people are using the service.

Data shows that since the first HIV case was reported in Vietnam in December 1990, there have been over 215,000 people living with this virus and over 103,000 deaths from HIV/AIDS./.