|Volunteers in Binh Thuan Province push safe sex measures to prevent HIV/AIDS — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam faces two major hurdles in combating HIV/AIDS: namely unsustainable achievements and the reduction of international financial support, says Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien.
At a nation-wide conference on HIV/AIDS, drug and prostitution control yesterday, Tien said that last year the country had more than 14,100 people living with HIV, a fall of 26 per cent compared with 2011.
More than 2,100 people died for AIDS last year which is half of the figure in 2011.
"However, the results are not sustainable and HIV/AIDS infection still faces a high risk of spreading further if we do not have effective control measures," said Tien.
The number of people infected with HIV via sexual intercourse has increased compared with the those infected via blood contact, and it is forecast that unprotected sexual contact will be the main means of HIV transmission in coming years.
"But controlling transmission via sexual intercourse is much more difficult than with transmission via blood contact, as approaching and supervising prostitutes and men who have sex with men faces a lot of obstacles," she said.
Nearly 46 per cent of people living with HIV were infected with the virus via sexual intercourse last year whereas only 42 per cent were infected via heroin injections. The rate in 2011 was 41.8 and 46.4 per cent respectively.
Besides, provinces with new outbreaks of infection, including Binh Duong, Vinh Phuc and Ha Nam, so far have not invested much in carrying out control measures.
Moreover, in the provinces bordering the metropolises Ha Noi and HCM City faces a greater risk of transmission, said Tien.
In the meantime, foreign financial support, which makes up 70 per cent of the total funds for epidemic control, is expected to decrease sharply by 2015 as Viet Nam becomes a middle-income nation.
"It is a big difficulty for the country as the number of people living with HIV is still high with 4,000-5,000 new cases per year," said Tien.
It is forecast that the country will have about 300,000 people living with HIV by 2015, and 140,000 of them will need antiretroviral drugs for HIV treatment during their whole life.
"Thus if funds for control is not enough, the country will not reach expected targets and thus faces a high risk of transmission to the community," said Tien.
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the organisation that offers the biggest fund for HIV/AIDS control, plans to cut its financial support by US$10 million a year.
PEPFAR supported the control with more than $82 million in 2011, but by 2015 the fund will be only $40 million.
To mobilise funds for HIV control, Deputy Minister of Finance Nguyen Thi Minh proposed to diversify organisations and individuals joining the programme.
Under the proposed project, enterprises and organisations supplying HIV/AIDS prevention and control services will enjoy preferential tax policies.
The Law on Health Insurance will be amended so people living with HIV and drug addicts will benefit from the fund.
The fund can pay 20 per cent of the total treatment expenses, thus people living with HIV should be encouraged to buy the insurance, said Minh.
Speaking at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the HIV/AIDS control steering committee at different levels to research and complete the law system on HIV/AIDS prevention and control, and strengthen information output on the subject to the whole people, especially the youth, about the disease and how to avoid it.
International co-operation should be improved and different sponsor sources should be mobilised and used effectively, he said.
"The country will try to diversify its funding sources by seeking support from public-private partnerships and health insurance, but it will still require financial assistance from international donors." — VNS