|People share information and experiences about HIV/AIDS prevention and control in a conference. Demand for anti-retroviral medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS continues to grow. — VNS Photo Thai Ha
HA NOI (VNS) — Demand for anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS continues to grow but the State's budget allocation for purchasing ARVs is limited, said Bui Duc Duong, deputy director of the Viet Nam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) under the Ministry of Health.
ARV medications help people living with HIV strengthen their immune system and thereby decrease the risk of contracting other diseases and illnesses; co-infection is the leading cause of death amongst the HIV/AIDS community in Viet Nam.
The Government of Viet Nam first allowed ARV medicines into the country in 2000 but they only became widely used in 2007. ARVs have proven successful in Viet Nam. Before 2007, 7,000-8,000 people died annually from AIDS, but in recent years numbers have been between 1,000-1,500.
In 2013, Viet Nam required more than VND350 billion (US$16.6 million) to buy ARVs. The state budget paid for only 6.3 per cent of the needed funds and the rest came from international sponsors.
Last year, the country required 400 billion ($19 million) and only 4.4 per cent came from the State budget.
With advanced notice about a decrease in financial support this year from Viet Nam's two biggest sponsors, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the State decided to up its financial support, spending VND85 billion ($4 million) on ARVs.
"But the fund is still not enough to meet the real demand," said Duong.
According to the VAAC website, the number of patients requiring ARVs will increase by almost 50,000 in the next two years. This means the situation will only get worse if the government cannot find additional sources to pay for the increasing demand for ARV treatment.
Duong said that the Ministry of Health proposed some measures to the State to help deal with the funding crisis.
The State's allocation of ARV funds to localities would depend on how much need they demonstrate, he said. If a province or city can rebalance their funds to loosen up some more funds for ARV, they must do so and expect a little less support than last year. The State would prioritise using this year's tight ARV funds to support poor and remote localities first.
Provinces and cities were told to instruct locals living with HIV/AIDS to buy health insurance so that insurance can pay for some of their treatment expenses.
On the VAAC website, the agency suggested the State to set up a nationwide order for the drug and then deliver to different provinces and cities since buying the drug in bulk reduces the price. — VNS