Đỗ Hữu Thủy, Director of Media and Community Mobilisation Department under Ministry of Health. – Photo laodong.com.vn
HIV/AIDS prevention is the key mission of Việt Nam’s public health sector. Now, the country’s efforts to fight the disease are running into financial obstacles as aid from international organisations—the key funding source for HIV/AIDS prevention—runs out. Đỗ Hữu Thủy, Director of Media and Community Mobilisation Department under Ministry of Health (MoH) tells Lao Động Cuối tuần (Labour Weekend) newspaper about the issue.
Việt Nam is confronting several difficulties in HIV/AIDS prevention with the decrease of international assistance. What do you think about this issue?
In the near future, international aid for HIV/AIDS prevention will be cut. Three assistance projects operated by Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be withdrawn by the end of 2017.
Additionally, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has announced that it will stop offering services by the end of 2018 and only support us with technical issues.
At present, we are requesting money from the Global Fund since several international projects will end their service assistance, putting more burden on the AIDS fight in Việt Nam.
How does the MoH deal with this situation?
Since 2013, the ministry has consulted the government developing financial plans for HIV/AIDS prevention.
We recommend the Government effectively mobilise domestic resources including the State budget, local budgets and socialised sources. On the other hand, the Government is encouraged to seek and maintain international aid if possible.
Additionally, it is necessary to identify and focus on priority groups. In the context of reduced support, the efficient use of resources is especially important.
Besides, the government has directed local authorities to make their own financial plans for HIV/AIDS prevention. Until now, more than 50 provinces have had their plans approved while only 8 others are building or proposing plans.
Some provinces have allocated sufficient resources to maintain treatment practices, but it is not always sufficient. However, we recognise their efforts in the AIDS fight.
The Việt Nam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control (VAAC) has conducted several field trips in some provinces of the Cửu Long River Delta, one of the country’s areas most affected by AIDS. What do you think about their work on HIV/AIDS prevention?
We just came back from two field trips in Cần Thơ City and Bến Tre Province. They are sharing some common issues in the AIDS fight.
Unlike in the North, in Cửu Long River Delta’s provinces, HIV/AIDS is commonly transmitted through sexual contact. For example, in Cần Thơ City and Bến Tre Province, 80 per cent of people are infected due to unsafe sex. Therefore, the two provinces need to promote practicing safe sex, including the use of condoms.
Besides organic drugs such as heroin or morphine, synthetic drugs are increasingly being abused, especially among the youth.
While methadone can be used to treat opioid dependence, there is no treatment offered to synthetic drug abusers. Moreover, synthetic drug abusers experience illusions, leading to the loss of control and unsafe sex.
According to a report by VAAC, gay and bisexual groups (MSM) in the two provinces are witnessing an increase in HIV-infected people. We have not yet controlled HIV transmission through sex acts in this group.
How is HIV/AIDS prevention in the two provinces?
We think that both localities have made huge efforts in preventing HIV. However, Cần Thơ City has been enjoying more favourable conditions since it is the key area of the drug fight in Southern provinces. The city has received support from international organisations to enhance human resources and infrastructure for fighting against HIV/AIDS.
Bến Tre Province does not have these opportunities; however, it has efficiently implemented prevention solutions, including public communications, preventive treatment for mother-to-child transmission and voluntary counselling and testing. – VNS