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HIV/AIDs treatment costs to spike

Update: June, 28/2016 - 10:21
People with HIV/AIDS receives consulting at a medical station. People with HIV and AIDS are expecting medical costs to soar when international health aid is cut off next year. — Photo kenh13.info

HÀ NỘI — People with HIV and AIDS are expecting medical costs to soar when international health aid is cut off next year, participants at a policy dialogue said yesterday.

Further complicating the issue, this demographic has found it difficult to secure health insurance.

The dialogue on a health insurance policy for people living with HIV/AIDS was co-organised by The Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations and the Health Ministry’s Department of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control.

Health insurance is expected to be a life preserver for HIV/AIDS patients in Việt Nam, particularly when international aid, which covers almost all medical fees for HIV-positive patients in the country, will cease next year because Việt Nam has now been categorised as a middle-income country.

Deputy head of the AIDS Department Hoàng Đình Cảnh said that when HIV/AIDS patients pay for health insurance, they would be held accountable to the medical treatment scheme.

As a result, they would avoid skipping treatment or shifting to other medical treatment schemes, which are usually more expensive, he said.

Trịnh Thị Lê Trâm, director of the Hà Nội-based Centre for Law, Healthcare and HIV/AIDS Policies under the Việt Nam Bar Association, said HIV/AIDS patients are usually poor, unemployed or have unstable incomes.

“They usually fail to afford health insurance cards, and they need significant medical care to treat opportunistic infections in addition to their anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment,” Trâm said.

Despite the fact that under the Law on Health Insurance, poor households were granted free health insurance cards and near-poor households had to pay only half of health insurance fees, people with HIV/AIDS still struggled to gain health insurance coverage.

Đỗ Đăng Đông, a representative from the Việt Nam Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (VNP+), said that besides administrative difficulties in applying for health insurance, societal stigma and discrimination were major barriers that prevented HIV/AIDS carriers from seeking insurance.

Those who left their hometowns to live in other localities also find it difficult to obtain insurance because only residents with permanent or temporary registration can apply for health insurance, he said.

HIV/AIDS children born overseas to mothers who were trafficked or married foreigners could not apply for health insurance either because they did not have birth certificates, he added.

Đông said that many people with HIV/AIDS also suffer from cancers that require expensive medicines.

Under a circular issued by the Health Ministry guiding the revised Law on Health Insurance, 25 types of expensive medicines used to treat cancer were paid for by both health insurance agencies and patients, Đông said, adding that it was a big burden for HIV/AIDS patients.

An HIV/AIDS carrier in Hà Nội’s Gia Lâm District said he had to take a medicine that cost VNĐ1.35 million (US$60.70) daily to prevent the development of cancer cells.

Previously, health insurance paid for the medicine in whole, but since 2015 he has paid half, which created a large financial burden for him and his family, he said. —VNS 

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