Vietnam strives to reduce HIV infections despite funds shortage hinh anh 1Vietnam has been striving to reduce the number of HIV infections and prevent outbreaks in high-risk communities (Photo: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam has been striving to reduce the number of HIV infections and prevent outbreaks in high-risk communities despite a decline in funding from the international community, health officials said.

According to the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control, the country began offering Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to people at high risks of contracting HIV, especially gays, in June 2017.

People, who are at high risk, take an antiretroviral (ARV) drug which contains tenofovir every day. When they are exposed to HIV through sex or recreational drug injections, the oral HIV PrEP may work to keep them from becoming infected. When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infections in people who are at high risk by up to 92 percent.

The pilot project has been implemented in Ho Chi Minh City until September 2018. Its outcomes will be used to build national guidelines and financial mechanism for PrEP in the coming time.

In addition, the Ministry of Health has scaled up community-based HIV testing services, focusing on 15 cities and provinces with large numbers of HIV infections; and piloted the HIV self-testing in which people can perform a test on a sample of their saliva at community-based organisations.

It has also expanded a network of district-based public clinics that provide HIV confirmatory tests in “hotspots” like HCM City, Thanh Hoa, Son La, Dien Bien, Nghe An, Yen Bai and Lao Cai. This has helped reduce waiting time for results and save costs.

The Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control estimated that there were over 3,500 people who tested HIV-positive, approximately 2,000 infected people had fill blown AIDS and 641 died of the disease during the first five months of 2017, down 11 percent, 21 percent and 34 percent, respectively, from the same period last year.

However, 20 cities and provinces across the country saw year-on-year increases in the number of new HIV infections, including Hanoi, Tay Ninh, Yen Bai, Tien Giang, Kien Giang, HCM City and Phu Tho. The number of new HIV infections in Hanoi and HCM City accounted for 25 percent of the country’s total new cases.

In addition, the number of HIV infections among gays has been on the rise since 2013 and unprotected intercourse is still the most common way of HIV infection in Vietnam.

Many challenges remain for HIV/AIDS control in the country largely owing to the lack of funding, said Dr. Hoang Dinh Canh, deputy head of the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control.

It has resulted in ineffective harm reduction intervention and communication activities, meanwhile, the number of people receiving Methadone and ARV treatment barely increased, he added.

Until the end of this year, the HIV/AIDS control authority plans to continue ramping up communication campaigns on HIV/AIDS control and prevention with the focus on preventing exposure to HIV, early HIV tests, early ARV treatment and inviting more people to join health insurance schemes, Canh noted.

The health sector will also increase health workers at HIV “hotspots” in remote areas and foster HIV tests at prisons.-VNA