Việt Nam has been striving to reduce the number of HIV infections and prevent outbreaks in high-risk communities despite a decline in international funding. — Photo antt.vn
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam has been striving to reduce the number of HIV infections and prevent outbreaks in high-risk communities despite a decline in international funding, health officials say.
According to the Việt Nam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control, the country began offering Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to people at high risk of contracting HIV, especially gays, in June 2017.
Those who are at high risk of contracting the virus can 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 can 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 providing PrEP is being implemented in HCM City until September 2018. Its results will be used to formulate national guidelines and financial mechanisms for PrEP provision in the coming time.
Besides this, the Health Ministry 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 institutions.
It has also expanded a network of district-based public clinics that provide HIV confirmatory tests in "hotspots" like HCM City, Thanh Hóa, Sơn La, Điện Biên, Nghệ An, Yên Bái and Lào Cai. This has helped reduce waiting time for results and save costs.
The Việt Nam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control estimates that in the first five months of the year, over 3,500 people tested HIV-positive, 2,000 infected people contracted full blown AIDS and 641 died of the disease, down 11 percent, 21 percent and 34 percent, respectively, from the same period last year.
However, 20 cities and provinces in the country saw year-on-year increases in the number of new HIV infections, including Hà Nội, Tây Ninh, Yên Bái, Tiền Giang, Kiên Giang, HCM City and Phú Thọ.
The number of new HIV infections in Hà Nội and HCM City accounted for 25 per cent of the national total.
The number of HIV infections among gays has been on the rise since 2013 and unprotected intercourse is still the most common way the virus is transmitted in the country.
Many challenges remain for HIV/AIDS control in the country, largely owing to the lack of funding, said Dr. Hoàng Đình Cảnh, deputy head of the Vietnam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control.
He said the lack of funding had resulted in ineffective harm reduction interventions and communication, while the number of people receiving Methadone and ARV treatment had only increased slightly.
In the remaining months of the year, authorities plan to ramp up communication campaigns on HIV/AIDS control and prevention with the focus on preventing exposure to HIV, early HIV testing, early ARV treatment and inviting more people to join health insurance schemes, Cảnh said.
The health sector would also increase health workers at HIV "hotspots" in remote areas and carry out HIV tests in prisons, he added. — VNS